Between two blogs, writing books, doing marketing and publicity for those books, keeping up with our homeschooling group’s plans through our online component on Facebook, and doing website usability tests for a little extra cash, I personally spend a lot of time on the computer. Roughly 90% of it is legitimate reason to be on it, or at least that’s what I tell myself.
But because of the necessity of being on the computer for work purposes, I sometimes lose track of how much time my kids are spending on theirs. Originally, they got computers because there were online things I wanted them to do for school – and each having their own made for a faster school day and less argument over whether or not it was someone’s turn to be online or if they were deliberately taking too long to do something so they could have more time on the computer.
Now that it’s summer, though, and social media has been introduced into their lives (in a limited way), I sometimes find that they are spending far too much time online. My oldest has taken to getting up between 6-7 to get online – I had to put a stop to that pretty fast. The new rule is no getting on the computer before 7 AM. I may have to extend that rule to include getting off of it at least twenty minutes before dinner is ready, and getting off at least an hour before bedtime, but we’ll see.
In a way, I suppose I should be happy that their screen time is on the computer. It means they’re not staring glassily at a mindless TV show. But I wouldn’t mind if occasionally, they were picking up their Kindles to read – don’t get me wrong, they do, but it would be nice if they did it more often.
But I also notice that when we go out, they take their Nintendos with them – this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because with ADHD, anytime we have to sit in a waiting room (like at the doctor), anything that keeps their attention and keeps them relatively still is a good thing. And on long drives, if it keeps them from asking “Are we there yet?” every 5 minutes, it’s a good thing. The oldest also likes to take his mp3 player everywhere, which is becoming a bit of an issue as he cranks the volume so much that he often can’t hear me when I speak to him.
Screens have become very much a constant in our daily lives. I know that we can’t eliminate them completely, nor do I want to. They are a nice diversion on stressful days, and they serve useful purposes often. But I am beginning to question whether we might need a little screen time discipline around here. A schedule of sorts to ensure that none of us, including me, spends all their time staring at a screen, regardless of the reason why.
I’ve heard of a lot of different ways to limit screen time. I know of people who use physical devices, such as timers, to forcibly stop the use of electronic devices like computers and TV during certain hours. Others take things like phones and gaming devices and put them up between certain hours. I know people who give “tickets” that their kids can trade in for screen time, and others that make their kids earn it with chores, good behavior, or various school-related things. Some just set hours and either the kids follow the schedule or they lose privileges (either to the device or otherwise).
The question is, how do you decide which method works best for your family? For myself, I’m not sure I want to spend money on a timer to deal with it – and in some instances, a timer would hurt more than help. One that’s for a modem or router, for example, would cut off my own internet, which could be a problem if I’m staying up late to do some of my own work – which does happen quite a bit.
But keeping track of tickets or what the kids need to do to earn so much time and whether or not they’ve done it adds yet another thing to my day – and to my computer time, because we all know I would need to create something on the computer to keep track of it all. Setting a schedule seems like the easiest way to handle it, but then I run into the issue of enforcing it if they get up before me. They’re not usually up much before me, but it does happen and having to sit down every day and check their history to see if they’ve been on it will get old fast.
All this confusion and debate means that for the moment, our only real rule is no computer before 7 AM and I make sure they get outside at least for a couple of hours every day when it’s not raining.
Do you have screen time limits in your home? If so, what are they and how did you settle on them? How do you enforce them and how flexible are they (for example, will they be relaxed as the kids get older?)? If you don’t, how did you decide not to set any limits and how do you ensure the kids get enough physical activity and other engagement besides screen time?
Are there other things that you limit in your home? Books, movies, TV shows, cartoons, friends, toys? Whatever you limit, if you limit anything, what made you decide to limit it and how do you enforce it? Do you explain your reasons to your children or do you simply express what the limits are and expect them to respect the limit (not that there is anything wrong with that!)?
Talk to me about your restrictions!