“How do I know my child is doing homework online vs playing Minecraft or scrolling TikTok?”

The #1 question I get asked as the school year approaches is about keeping kids focused during online school. There are three things parents should set up today to help with this:

  • setting up some screen time rules
  • using a few apps to help you enforce the rules
  • starting the school day with daily check in’s with your kids

Screen time rules

For setting up rules, it’s helpful to think about the three different types of screen time:

  • connecting activities (social media, gaming played in groups, texting, calling, FaceTiming)
  • creating activities (coding a game, editing videos for a YouTube channel, watch YouTube tutuorials to learn how to play an instrument)
  • consuming activities (passively scrolling social media)

Usually it’s the last one that drives parents crazy! When you watch your child “wasting the day” online, it’s hard to stay quiet.

Start by thinking about your child’s school day. How much time are they expected to be online for classes and homework?

Then add the “fun stuff”. Ask yourself, how much free time online feels like a fit for your family?

Include your kids in the conversation and teach them the three types of screen time. Collaborate on how their day might be set up for success–getting school work done AND having time for fun and connection.

Two apps that every family should have

As far as how to help kids stay on track, I recommend every family use two apps.

Circle for filtering the internet and blocking games and social media until school is done. This app is magical–I can pause the internet for just one child, block specific games, set a bedtime for weekdays and weekends by child!

Bark for making sure your child is using the internet appropriately. Bark lets kids have privacy, unless they send or receive inappropriate content. It’s a way for parents to check in on their child’s mental state and reaffirm their values.

Daily family check-ins

Lastly, setting aside 15 minutes over breakfast before the school day for a quick check in makes all the difference.

I start the meeting with a word of the day, usually a character trait or family value. Sometimes I ask for examples and challenge my kids to model this trait. Other times one of my kids chooses a word from a stack of cards we’ve made. Next, ask who has class meetings and when. Then, who has homework they need help with. I like to schedule time into my day to help and the sooner I know they have a huge project they need 2 hours of my time with, the better! I also share my schedule and when I need them quiet because I have a client or recording session. This lets us share our house respectfully.

Bonus: Daily Expectations Schedule

My nine years of homeschooling experience led me to create a daily expectations schedule so that I knew school work was done before screen time.

  • Decide on a time to start school.  9am works for me. That means, before that time, I’m not available as a teacher. Here’s an example homeschool schedule.
  • Define your roles and when you’ll be each one. At my house, before 9am, I’m a Mom and business owner. At 9am I show up ready to lead the schoolwork. At noon, I’m a Mom and business owner.
  • Set up blocks of time for the basics 10am-noon and let your child help plan their day. Do they want to do math or history first?
  • Don’t forget–your older kids can help your younger kids with school. You don’t have to do it all. Read more online school tips here.
  • Make them do something active at least every two hours. Jumping jacks, going outside, jump on the trampoline, ride bikes…
  • Include QUIET TIME for one hour in the morning and afternoon. That will be time without devices that your child can occupy themselves.
  • Use this Daily Expectations list to require chores and homework be done first, before earning an hour of SCREEN TIME
  • Use this 100+ Offline Activities for Kids list to get them off screens and thinking creatively
  • Ask your child how they could help others? Let them define a volunteer opportunity in the neighborhood or online.

A script to start the conversation

Here’s a script to start this conversation with your kids:

“I’m concerned you’re going to be on your devices all day long with online school and I really want you to have a healthy balance of online and offline time, work and fun time. How can we set up a structure to the day and some screen time rules that make sense? What do you think is reasonable for fun time?”


  • Collaborate on screen time rules
  • Use Bark and Circle to help manage screen time
  • Start with a family meeting to set the tone for the day

Related posts:

My philosophy on 2020 Fall School

What one idea will you implement to start your school year?

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