Most parents I know struggle with how to implement screen time restrictions.
Screen time has been a huge issue in my house for a very long time, too, and I have tried many different methods for keeping it in check. We finally came to a system that (mostly) works a couple of years ago, and it has made my life SO much easier. My son is a pretty good kid, but the constant struggle and begging and arguments…it got old. I was always feeling guilty and frustrated and trying to think of different things that might work!
So I am sharing what works for us, not because I am a parenting expert, but because I believe that parenting works best when we all share our struggles and triumphs with each other.
One thing I want you to know first is that I am very supportive of technology in my kid’s lives. I know that some parent’s think “the screen” is the root of all evil, but I strongly disagree.
1. Technology isn’t going anywhere, and our kids need to know how to use it. It is becoming more and more integrated into our day to day lives and that will only continue as our children grow up.
2. With boundaries and limits, screens can be a wonderful thing. I was able to start my own business from absolutely NOTHING, thanks to a computer and the internet. I now contribute to a good chunk of our household income thanks to…a blog. I have met my very best friend (Hi Shelly) and a truly wonderful network of women who act as a support system. Despite the distance, we are able to text, call, and maintain meaningful friendships that have truly changed my life and made my time as a work-at-home mom a lot easier.
3. Screen time, when given with limits, helps teach priorities and boundaries at an early age. Just like any other life lessons, our children need to learn to prioritize and use their screens in the right way. The last thing I want is to raise children who neglect their children or spouses because of a screen, or get involved in activities online that aren’t healthy or moral and negatively impact their families. The only way they learn this is by being TAUGHT.
4. As a mom, screen time is a wonderful bargaining chip for ME. Want chores done? Withhold screen time. Kiddo being disrespectful? Take AWAY screen time. Leverage always makes my life easier, and screen time is what he values.
How I limit screen time is VERY simple. I give my son SET HOURS that he is allowed to play his iPod, PlayStation, or laptop. It’s a very black and white system that is super simple for me to implement and super simple for him to UNDERSTAND. Unlike a time limit system (2 hours a day, etc), he’s not constantly nagging me about how much time he has left, did this or that count against his time, etc. Using the set hours system, I am also able to choose the time of day that is most convenient for him to be on his screen.
I do NOT change my schedule to accommodate his screen time. If for some reason we are busy doing something else one day and he’s not able to get on his electronics during the set hours, too bad. It doesn’t always work out and that is that.
I give Jon David more time during the Summer than I do during the school year. He doesn’t always have kids around to play with and it’s SUPER hot here in Arkansas, so playing outside in the afternoon is absolutely miserable. During the Summer he gets from 1pm – 5pm. This means that in the morning he has plenty of time to do his chores, play outside before the temperature peaks, run errands with me or go out for something fun before Lucy’s nap, and eat lunch. Around 1 is when I lay Lucy down and sit down to work for a couple of hours, so it’s a great time for him to be on his screen. Then he’s off his screen in time to help with dinner and hang out with us as a family when my husband gets home from work.
I do NOT allow him to have his screens (other than family TV time) in the evening for a few reasons.
1. It’s cooler out, so it’s a better time of day to swim or play outside with the neighbors, etc.
2. As he grows older, it’s a good habit to have. Evenings are when kiddos get into more trouble on the internet or phones. NO TECHNOLOGY IS ALLOWED IN BED. EVER. The end.
3. It encourages him to spend time with his family.
4. He has to read every night before bed. I do not want the temptation to be there to skip reading for his iPod.
5. Kids that have their devices at night generally stay up later or have more trouble winding down.
During the school year, Jon David is allowed screen time from 4pm – 6pm. This gives him time to have a snack and do chores and homework, and be off his screens in time to help with dinner and hang out with the family for the evening.
I can’t emphasize enough how much SIMPLER this system made my life. I’m no longer nagged constantly about his iPod or computer. He knows — if it’s not 1-5, he doesn’t get to play. And if he bugs me, he won’t get his time at all. It’s very black and white and very easy to keep up with. When it’s not his set hours, all of his screens are put away.
These limits are SO important. Without them, Jon David would probably never see his friends, play with his sister, or spend time giving us his UNDIVIDED attention. In return, his limits encourage me to prioritize my own screens and be present with my family. I do support technology in a kid’s life, but I also think that it can go overboard if not limited. Time away from screens encourages creativity and social interaction which is SO important.
I’d love to hear what has worked or hasn’t worked for you in regards to screen time.
Have a great day!