How to Schedule After-School “Screen-Free Time” for Teens

6 min to read
An online school student practicing yoga

After school, there’s immense value for students to slow down and engage with their thoughts away from screens. 

Instead of letting your teen watch TV or scroll through social media until the end of the day, participating in quiet, screen-free activities—even if just for an hour—can be rejuvenating for both their body and mind. Discover why you should establish screen-free time for your family and how to easily incorporate the habit into your day.

Why is Screen-Free Time Important for Teens?

Enjoying time away from screens can reduce stress by rebalancing chemicals in your student’s body. This is because time without screens can lower your child’s cortisol levels, which leads to improved sleep quality.

Reducing screen use during their spare time also helps students increase their focus and attention spans. This will help keep students engaged during their lessons and other activities that require focus. 

Time away from screens also can provide emotional benefits to students. Quiet time spent enjoying their favorite hobbies or discovering new interests helps students get in touch with their thoughts and find joy.

You don’t need to ban screens entirely to reap the benefits of screen-free time. By implementing a 15-minute family quiet time at the end of the school day, before dinner, your child can experience reduced stress, improved sleep quality, increased focus, and numerous emotional benefits.  

What are Some Screen-Free Activities for Teens?

There are tons of quiet time activities your middle- or high-school student may enjoy that can get them some much needed screen-free time. These allow your student to intentionally quiet and engage their mind and body. Here are a few ideas to get you started: 


Journaling allows students to reflect on their day and gather their thoughts. A regular journaling practice can help students manage anxiety and stress, cope with depression, and provide opportunities for positive self-talk.

By writing down their thoughts and feelings, students improve their verbal and written communication skills. Younger teens may benefit from journaling prompts, while older teens may enjoy the freedom of starting with a blank page.


Meditation is a tool for students to process their thoughts. While meditation might seem like quietly sitting still, it’s much more than that. Through meditation, students can improve their sleep and reduce the impacts of stress, anxiety, and depression. Preliminary studies show there could be additional benefits, such as managing high blood pressure, reducing pain, and managing weight.

Walking, Hiking, or Other Exercise

Exercising can get students’ hearts pumping, improve their mood, boost energy levels, and reduce stress. After spending all day seated for schoolwork, it’s important for students to have an opportunity to move their bodies.

Playing Outside

Playing in nature lets teens engage with the world around them. There is a surplus of benefits tied to getting outside—physically, mentally, and socially. When teens spend time outside, they improve their natural immunity, eye health, and memory. Students can connect with other children socially, boost cognitive development, and improve student’s mood when playing outside.

Drawing or Creating Art

Being creative, whether by drawing or creating other types of art, can help students slow down and engage with their thoughts. Studies show that spending time on creative activities boosts mental well-being. In fact, “spending time on creative goals during a day is associated with higher activated positive affect on that day.”

An online school student journaling in a notebook as part of scheduled screen-free time. 

How Can Families Implement Quiet Time for Kids?

If you don’t yet have a screen-free routine in place, it might feel intimidating to get started, especially for students who have already made a habit of jumping from one screen during school to another in their free time. 

The good news is it’s quite easy to start and begin reaping the benefits.  Instead of focusing on what they can’t do (like not playing video games or watching TV), focus on what they can do.

Start Small and Use a Timer

When implementing quiet time for kids, start small. Begin with just ten minutes of dedicated screen-free time. 

You can set a few guidelines before you begin, such as:

  • No using screens, including phones, computers, video game consoles, or TVs

  • Spend at least five quiet minutes with your thoughts

  • Be open-minded

Of course, you can adapt these to fit your family’s needs. 

You may discover it helps to set a timer, particularly for younger teens. When the timer goes off, your child is welcome to start using screens. However, you may find that as time goes on, your teen will find joy and relaxation in their screen-free habit, so much so that they want to continue their quiet time activity even after the timer has gone off.

Provide Choices and Make it Fun

Avoid telling your teen how to spend their quiet time. If your child is told they must journal, meditate, or exercise, they’ll be more likely to resist the activity. Meanwhile, if you provide a few suggestions and ideas for how they can spend their quiet time, they will appreciate the agency it gives them.

Your family may find that making screen-free time silent doesn’t work for you. Consider putting together a playlist of quiet time music that you can play during your screen-free time. This can also serve as a timer — when the playlist finishes, your teen can use screens if they want.

Younger teens might enjoy special quiet time toys. These could include arts and crafts materials, puzzles, or board games that are brought out specifically to be played with during screen-free time.

Make Screen-Free Time a Family Activity

When your children see you on your phone, computer, or watching TV for extended periods of time, it becomes normalized. If they have to take a break from screens, while you continue using yours, it can feel like a punishment.

Instead, try to establish a screen-free routine as a family. You can all enjoy your own quiet time activities without screens. If you’re able to take it a step further, see if you can make it a rule to ban phones from the dinner table or keep the TV off when you’re having meals together. You’ll likely find that your child begins to open up more and share about their day. Who knows, you may find your family’s next favorite hobby by limiting screen time!

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