Screen-Free Teens: Ideas for Engaging Teenagers without Devices

Screen-Free Teenagers that’s a bit of an Oxymoron isn’t it. Whether it is the television, a computer, a phone, or even a watch – they are just drawn to screens everywhere. I can’t say I blame them as I find it really hard to go away from them myself. Society seems to be so reliant on them from the daily alarm, entertainment, reminders, keeping in touch and so on. But evidence suggests that too much time attached to screens with no break from them can be really damaging.

How we can help Encourage Screen-Free Teenagers

If you have a teenager that self-regulates and has lots of screen-free time then you have either done really well or are super-lucky. If it is the former then I would hazard I guess that this is because you have modelled this behaviour yourself.


Yes it really isn’t a case of don’t do as I do, do as I say! That is a very old-fashioned style of parenting that I really do not think works in the modern world. You have to model the behaviour you desire. You can’t tell children there’s no screens after a certain time and be glued to them yourselves.

screen-free time reading a book

As well as modelling by not being on screens you will also be demonstrating some of the alternatives. These could also be things that you do together. Building shared interests. Not only do them but be seen to be doing them.

Time Limits to Screen Time

The obvious thing if your teenagers do not self-regulate their screen time is time limits. I think when doing this though you really need to understand what it is they are doing and what it means to them. I know that our teens can “wait” for ages to get into a competitive match. You might feel that they have been on for quite a long while but to them they haven’t played. Plus if their time was up before their match finished it would be detrimental to their ranking.

We have always had a rule that computer games are only at weekends (which start after school on Fridays) and school holidays. That the earliest they can be on is 11am. Keep in mind that they are chomping at the bit to go on straight away at eleven!

Planning the Perfect Sleepover for Teenage Boys*

It is also how you interpret what “screens” are. We have always thought in terms of computer games – but more and more it is their smartphones which are the problem. We need to rethink how we manage screen time with something that they just have with them all the time.

The problem is it is quite hard to enforce. This is because either we forget to collect their phones from them at night or they need charging. We have been known to turn the Wi-Fi off at night though to make it less likely that they are on them.

Screen-time Rules

I think it is important to set some screen-times rules. Which obviously is more than just about time. Again this works best when they are modelled. Of all our screen-free time rules the one which works best is no screens at the dinner table. I believe this is because we also follow that rule too.

Due to this rule we can keep them off screens by offering them more food. We have this treat where we all sit around the table eating fruit. They are enticed by the melted chocolate that we give them to pour over it.

strawberries dipped in melted chocolate

Then it is about what they are allowed to look at. The best way to keep them safe here is, I believe, just keep talking to them.

You could make it a rule that they have to balance their on-screens time with off-screens time. We often do it with a case of they have to do so many things before they are allowed on screens. As I say with the way they play it is easier to do this at the start of the day rather than trying to get them off.


Of course the off-screen time could be rewarding in itself. But there is also the option of offering a reward for time taken off-screen. This may be in form of something else you do not approve of that they require (maybe a later bedtime, some sweets etc).

Again spending time together will also be rewarding for them – but I am not sure how many teens would actually see it that way.

The Screen-Free Hamper

For the school holidays I have created a Screen-Free Hamper for our boys. This includes various things to entertain them off-screen either on their own or together. It includes a Manga edition Monopoly, a card game, various books, a Rubik puzzle they haven’t already got, a new rugby ball (to also encourage them outside), and some Marvin’s Magic Pens. I could have also added more art things and LEGO but we have a lot of these things already. I find thinking about what it is they are interested in helps. For example the Overwatch LEGO went down very well for our teenager.

screen free teens hamper ideas

Screen-Free Teenagers Bingo Game

You could create a Screen-Free Teenagers Bingo Game. Simply make a table in the style of Bingo – this could be as small as a simple three by three. Just increase in size by however many squares you think you could encourage your teenager to cross off. Then just fill it with screen-free activities that you think would motivate them off their screens! Finally decide on whether they need to just do a line or a full-house. Will you give them a reward for crossing them off? Decide whether you want to say what this is or negotiate with them what it should be.

screen-free teenagers bingo card

Screen-Free Activities for Teenagers

Here is a list of some screen-free activities that I think our teenagers would partake in. I will look back on them to make new Bingo boards for them. I hope they inspire you to have screen-free teenagers too!

  • Read a book. Think about books you would enjoy. Teenagers want to be treated like adults not children.
  • Listen to music.
  • Write or make up a story. Either just to tell or maybe acted out with LEGO.
  • Paint a picture.
  • Play a board game and/or cards. UNO is popular in our house. Or Go Fish.
  • Make crafts as gifts
  • Stretch.
  • Solve a puzzle/Rubik’s cube
  • Build something taller than them.
  • Measure yourself – not just height.
  • Build with LEGO.
  • Improve drawing technique.
  • Bowling.
  • Interact with a pet (we have a Bearded Dragon)..
  • Singing.
  • Make a family tree.
  • Knitting/sewing/crocheting/cross-stitch.
  • Learn together – finances for example, or a new skill.
  • Lie on the Shakti mat.

Helping Around the House

Make them feel like a valuable member of the household. That their help is really appreciated

  • Chores.
  • Paint a room/decorate.
  • Fix things.
  • Meal planning.
  • Write a budget.
  • Cook.
  • Declutter their bedroom.
Easter cheesecake
The boys loved making this Easter Egg Cheesecake from Amy Treasure’s Blog

Screen-Free Outside Activities

Those who follow Outdoors and Happy will know how important I believe getting outside is. Here are some outdoors ideas:

  • Good old favourite of washing the car. Maybe encouraged by a cash incentive.
  • Wash the car – or learn about changing the oil, where all the controls are and so on.
  • Water limbo – how low can they go to get under water from a hose pipe?!
  • Do some gardening.
  • Go litter-picking.
litter picking
  • Read outside.
  • Just stick your head out the window.
  • Sit outside and meditate.
  • Camp in the garden.
  • Make a fire and toast s’mores.

Sporty Activities

  • Yoga.
  • Walk – Our boys like to be encouraged by a trip to the Ice-Cream place, or just something from the supermarket. Although to be fair they do like walking and talking, particular if it is one-on-one time.
  • Run – how far, or how fast, or for short bursts.
  • Bike ride.
  • Swimming.
  • Dancing.
  • Trampolining.
  • Scooter ride.
  • Skipping.
  • Roller skating.
  • Basketball.
  • Rugby.
  • Football.
pamper parcel rugby

Do you have other screen-free ideas for Teenagers?

4 thoughts on “Screen-Free Teens: Ideas for Engaging Teenagers without Devices”

  1. The only way I can get my girls to stay away from a screen is to stay away from one myself but I suppose that is setting a good example.
    We do have screen free mornings on a weekend and an hour or so on an evening but it’s hard at the moment when they are learning on screens from school. My youngest sometimes 4 hours a day.
    That Screen-Free Hamper is fab!! What a great idea and I love that bingo game. My girls love to compete against each other so this could work. x

  2. Some good suggestions here! I must admit my kids are pretty bad with screens (mainly their phones) and I lost the battle many years ago! My younger kids do mix it up with sport and activity, and my daughter is getting into baking. My eldest is at work all day, so it’s understandable that he wants to spend time on screens in the evening.


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