How To Reduce Child Screen Time: A Review of TV Timers


It’s a generally agreed upon fact that too much screen time is bad for kids. There are lots of studies on this, but let’s look at what the American Academy of Pediatrics says:

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that kids under 2 years old not watch any TV and that those older than 2 watch no more than 1 to 2 hours a day of quality programming.

The first 2 years of life are considered a critical time for brain development. TV and other electronic media can get in the way of exploring, playing, and interacting with parents and others, which encourages learning and healthy physical and social development.

As kids get older, too much screen time can interfere with activities such as being physically active, reading, doing homework, playing with friends, and spending time with family.

And while many parents agree that too much screen time is bad, they often have a hard time riding herd on their kids in order to limit it. I’d definitely put our busy family in this category. We would often say that the kids would have a certain amount of time on the TV or computer and then we’d get busy doing something else and forget to kick them off.

Wouldn’t it be nice if their was a timer of some kind that could be the bad guy and efficiently enforce the rules? With that in mind, I began the look for a TV Timer that might be able to help us. After doing some research, I narrowed it down to two products: BOB and Time Machine.

What About Bob?

BOB is the most sophisticated of the TV timers that I looked at and also the most costly. I have no idea why it’s called “BOB” but for about $60 you get the following features:

  • 6 Unique Accounts: Each family member gets their own account and private 4-digit pin. Time is set by the parents for each account, and the time limits can be daily or weekly.
  • Works for all TV devices: BOB works by shutting off power to the TV once the child has reached their daily or weekly time limit. So it will work with any device that is connected to the TV (TiVo, Wii, DVD, VHS, Xbox, etc).
  • Safe for electronics: Because BOB just shuts off power to the TV rather than to the devices it doesn’t do any harm to the auxiliary devices which might not appreciate an immediate power cut off.

Overall, I liked BOB, but it seemed a little pricey. If there were not other cheaper options that fit my needs though I probably would have bought it.

The Time Machine

The Time Machine TV Timer is similar to BOB, but follows a different model of relying on tokens rather than individual accounts. The Time Machine is less than half the cost of BOB at around $25 and has the following features:

  • Token-Operated: Instead of using pin codes and individual accounts, the Time Machine is token-operated like the arcades of yesteryear. It comes with 30 tokens and each token provides 30 minutes of TV time.
  • RCA & Cable Connected: The Time Machine works by cutting off the connection from the TV to your device. It allows a cable and RCA device to be connected to it. This could be a limiting factor if you don’t use RCA cables to connect to your TV or if you have a large number of devices you’d like to control.
  • Set Times of Operation: Similar to BOB, you can put in the times that you want the device to be active. So for the Time Machine, you can say kids can only watch TV starting at 6am and ending at 8pm. It will restrict them to those times, even if they try to add a token.


Ultimately we decided on the Time Machine due to its cost and token-based approach. We liked the idea that the kids could earn more tokens each day for good behavior and it could be a tangible reward or punishment.

After a few months of use, it has definitely reduced the amount of TV our kids watch though I don’t think we’re quite at AAP-recommended levels yet…

All television is educational television. The question is: what is it teaching? 

-Nicholas Johnson

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

One thought on “How To Reduce Child Screen Time: A Review of TV Timers

  1. You should review the Token Timer product. Our family has had great success with it…solid product and worth the money.

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