How to Outsmart Screen Time for a Better Bedtime Routine

A cognitive specialist shares her family’s evening routine for getting a better night’s sleep.

By Beatrice Moise February 27, 2024

Every night, it’s the same routine in our house. At 6:30 pm we shut down the laptops, tablets and electronic devices and they all go into their designated charging stations. Then it’s family time - a carefully created serotonin-inducing routine (with a little smart tech built-in) that’s designed to help us all get a good night’s sleep. And it works. Even with two brilliant neurodivergent children whose best friends are electronics.

This article is sponsored by Verizon.

Why does it work? Because this evening routine takes into account how cortisol, dopamine and serotonin work together so that our family time is more rewarding than the screen time the kids would be getting before bed. 

From screen time to bedtime

This routine works best with most kids under the age of 13.

  • 6:30 PM - Turn off all electronic devices and put them into their designated spaces.

  • 6:30 - 7:00 PM - Engage in an activity you’ve planned that kids can look forward to once screen time is over, such as going outside or having a dance party. In our house, we use this time to transition from the work and school day to family time. We’re all working together to get dinner ready, such as by setting the table or doing other house chores.

  • 7:00 PM - Have family dinner together. At the dinner table, everyone takes a turn talking about their day. That’s when serotonin can kick in as we’re bonding and building memories, and it becomes something that the kids look forward to each night.

  • 7:15 PM - Get ready for bed. The kids go upstairs, brush their teeth, and come downstairs with a book for us to read together. Kids don’t always like to do things like brushing their teeth. We intentionally stack this type of chore with a reward or something that they look forward to. So they start to associate something they need to do with something they want to do, which is read together.

  • 7:30 PM - Have kids choose their own unwinding activities that they will do in their rooms that don’t involve screens, such as reading on their own, or listening to audiobooks or music on smart speakers. And if it’s been an active or stressful day, incorporate some light stretching, using some stretching apps as a guide.
  • 8 PM - Listen to calming sounds on smart speakers before bed.
  • 8:30 - 9 PM - Fall asleep to favorite sounds as the lights go down and the melatonin kicks in.

It may sound like common sense, but the goal is to ensure that time with parents is just as rewarding as screen time. So it’s about creating the kind of bedtime routine that sets up both you and your kids to make the best of that time together. 

Sleep well and pause your kid’s Wi-Fi and data at night - right from your phone, with Smart Family

Beatrice (Bea) Moise, M.S., BCCS., is a Board-Certified Cognitive Specialist, a parenting coach, a national speaker and the author of Our Neurodivergent Journey. She’s a frequent author for Verizon’s Parenting in a Digital World.