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Two more minutes! – screen time management for toddlers

Smartphones and tablets have become part of people’s daily life. This change has also been seen with children where watching videos or play game on smart devices becomes their playtime. We have heard stories about children becoming too attached to their devices. For health and disciplinary reasons, parents’ try to control the children’s screen time. Therefore in Spring quarter 2015, my teammates and I decided to conduct research on how parents manage preschoolers’ screen time, and what role can technology play in supporting these management practices? From the initial study, I created a design solution that aim to help parents to control the children’s screen time. The Lead Researcher of this project gained a partnership with Kidaptive to use Leo’s Pad edutainment app in this research. All screenshots of Leo’s Pad scenes belong to Kidaptive.


Parents and children between 2 to 5 years old who use smartphone or/and tablets for entertainment.


Doing a study involving children requires an approval from institutional review board (IRB).
Children of this age group have not develop good communication skill yet.


Read on secondary researches done on the topic of designing for children.
Conducted primary research on target users’s pain points and their current practice to manage screen time through casual interviews with parents.
Gathered feedback from parents on storyboards and visuals that illustrate initial design directions.
Analyzed research data.
Iterated design solution.
Produced high fidelity prototype so that it is easier to understand by the children.
(To be continued for testing, more iteration and further study.)

Storyboards and visuals shown to parents in casual interviews
Q: What do you think of the scenarios?

Storyboard 1

Storyboard 2

Storyboard 3

Q: Which design will help children to tell time?

Timer 1

Timer 2

Timer 3

Research analysis
Parents do want to control screen time, but ending the activity abruptly without warning will upset the children.
Parents want the children to be involved in the decision making so they are aware of what is going to happen and the transition will be smoother.
Parents want the duration to be flexible as it will depend on the kind of activity the parents need to do.
Children between 2 to 5 years old cannot read time yet.
Designing for children needs to involve fun to maintain their attention.


Since the initial research showed that most children use the smart devices to watch videos, we decided to only design the solution for that purpose.

Brainstorming session

Video sandbox
To manage the screen time, parent will access an app that acts as a video sandbox. Although the mockup only displays scenes from Leo’s Pad, the solution is aimed to work with other child friendly shows as well. To begin, the parent and child can decide together which shows to watch for the agreed time duration. By getting the child’s buy in at the beginning, this helps to make him be aware of the time limit.

The child will be greeted by Coco, the companion character. Coco is introduced to act as a friend that will notify the child when the screen time is about to end, creating a smooth transition in the end. Coco’s existence also helps to create visual consistency to help the child to differentiate whether it is an instruction from the timer overlay or the content of the video he is watching.

Once the screen time begins, the set duration will be running in the background. Since toddlers are not able to read time yet, when 2 more minutes is left to the screen time, Coco will appear on the screen and provide audio alert. A color coded timer bar will also appear on the top of the screen. The length and color of the bar will provide the kid a general idea that time is running out. The numeric timer will be useful for the parents to check. As the time is running low, Coco will appear again to give a second alert,the numeric timer will blink faster, and the screen that the child was watching will shrink in size and eventually disappear into black screen. This disruptive ending is intended to make the child to stop using the device. Happy Coco will say goodbye to the child at the end of the screen time, leaving the child in a positive mood.

This project is still in progress but carried by a different team as I had to be away for Summer Internship in California. More test and research will be done.

  • Interface, Research, User Experience
  • 2015
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