Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Screens and Kids: Where we are right now.

Babies with screens. Pretend, but still captivating.

My kids love screen time. They LOVE it. It has been proven to me, on several occasions, that they will play on their screens for hours and hours... basically all day if I let them. This summer I threw my back out, and since I could not get out of bed and didn't have alternate child care plans, they had unlimited screen time for 3 days. Not once, in all that time, did they come up to me, hand me the i-pad, and say, "I'm bored of Netflix. I think I'll go play outside." They did however, request the chargers so that they could continue watching "Lab Rats" for the 7th hour. Then they sat on the floor next to the outlet.

So, screen time limits are a must in our house.  My children will not self regulate this one.

(I don't really need to reiterate the pretty well proven fact that 7 hours a day of screen time is bad for kids. Or anyone. Right? We can agree on that?)

We've had a variety of screen time limits and rules in our family life, ranging from NO screen time to screen time every day for 3-4 hours. (Summers, they are long.)

This school year, we limited our kids' screen time a lot. After a summer of fairly lengthy TV time every day, and plenty of I-pad/Kindle time, we realized a few important things:

1. Both kids are noticably more grumpy, less compliant and sass back a whole lot more after TV time.

2. Both kids will wake up extra early on weekends in order to have more screen time.

3. Both kids will ignore ALL bodily functions in favor of more screens. No bathroom breaks, necks held at odd angles for hours, rumbling stomachs ignored. No wonder they are grumpy!

4. Both kids (but especially our son) will not be able to engage in any other type of play if they know that screen time is an option. They will literally WAIT AROUND for screen time. And by wait I mean, flail around and whine for an hour with that favorite phrase "I'm so bored!" on repeat.

So in September, we set up the following rules:

1. No TV on school nights.*
2. No screens on weekends until AFER 7AM, AFTER breakfast, and AFTER they are fully dressed.
3. No individual screens. They have to share the TV, not hide in their rooms bingewatching Netflix on the i-pad.

Basically, they are getting about 6 hours of screens in a regular week, mostly on Saturdays. When someone is sick or we have a school holiday, it goes up, but on normal school days, they don't even ask for TV anymore.

* However, they did just get a Wii after saving their allowance for several months. So, we sometimes let them play a few games before dinner. The Wii seems to not lead to as many negative behaviors as TV time does.

Why let them watch TV at all?, you might ask. I ask myself this question a lot, especially on Saturday mornings when someone is melting down over not being able to see the next episode of Justice League.

Well, TV is a great motivator for cleaning up, for one. My kids will run around cleaning up anything I need them to for a chance at screen time.

Also, when I need an hour of peace and quiet, the TV is a very, very effective distraction!

When I'm doing Lily's hair, we need the TV to keep her from crying and running away, her curls 1/2 braided.  Daniel will sometimes say to me, "Don't you have to do Lily's hair today?" because he knows it means 2-3 hours of movie time.

So far, our current screen limits are working for us. No doubt we will need to update them as our schedules change and the kids get older. Some day soon, I'm sure, they will not need prodding to stay in bed past 7AM. I hope.

How do you manage your family's screen time? 

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