Have you parents ever realized that a situation has gotten out of hand with your kids and desperately needs to be reigned in? That’s what has happened with us over the last few months with screen time – TV, iPod, iPad, computer time, iPhone games… You name it, we’ve been doing it. I could blame it on the weather. Terrible NE Ohio temperatures this year and all that. But as I’ve reflected on it, I’ve realized it’s two things.
1. First, Lazy Mommy Syndrome. After I’ve spent all morning and early afternoon teaching, I need to get things done! So games/shows seem like an easy option. It certainly seems quicker for me than helping them to decide what cool fun thing they can do that’s creative.
2. The second part that I’m realizing played into this dilemma was that I had not previously set rules. We have guidelines in other media areas:
– No TV on school mornings
– No DVDs in the car unless we are driving over 45min
Those are so easy to enforce. The kids know the rules. They don’t even ask. But screen time in general has been a free for all. Every time they would ask, I would have to decide. So it’s easy to slide into a yes without even thinking about it, and then not realizing how long they had been playing.
About two weeks ago my husband and I spent most of the weekend cleaning and organizing our office and school area. It was amazing the difference. We actually knew what we had! And what we found that made us sick were gobs of cool, fun activities that our kids have rarely played with! Really, they are playing Minecraft when they could be doing an amazing Physics kit or Spirograph or stencils?!
The other thing that hit me was that it seems like I was spending tons of time negotiating with my kids about when they could play a game or watch a show. My four year old threw temper tantrums when I said no, my big kids were trying to convince me that I PROMISED they could play when they got done with school. All of a sudden, this seemingly easy activity was seeming much less easy. And it occurred to me that because we didn’t have rules in place, it was becoming an area of debate. That is not what I intended.
My husband and I always talked about living intentionally when we first got married. Even when our kids were very little, it was a hot topic. But as they get older and we get busier, that intentionality slowly fades into playing defense. But that is all about to change.
We decided to put a freeze on screen time for a week. Even I took Facebook and Instagram off my phone and only went on for business purposes – Mommy gets addicted to electronics, too! That week ended yesterday and I have to say that it was one of the most amazing weeks I’ve had with my kids in a long time. Let me preface this by saying that the weather is beginning to break, so they were able to play a lot outside. But that being said, they rarely fought. I barely fought with them, because we weren’t negotiating who could choose a show or how long they could play on their iPod.
They found amazingly fun things to do. They used magnifying glasses to look at steel cut oats.
They decorated for St. Patrick’s Day.
They even had to say no to the iPads on the walls of the Pediatric Dentist —
two days in a row!
My four year old played uninterrupted for an hour and a half on one activity while I did school with the big kids. He even made cleanup fun by adding a dump truck.
Multiple trips to the library and lots of reading at home, even without being directed!
What was surprising to me was that most of the things they found to do, I didn’t have to find for them. The other thing I didn’t think about in advance was that once the rule was set – no screen time for a week – there was no asking, no negotiation. They knew what to expect. That’s a nice change!
Halfway through the week my daughter suggested doing no screen time every other week. My older son recommended earning 15 min for doing chores, 15 min for doing well with their school, etc… Overall, it was a smashing success. I realized that it’s not easier to let them play on electronics. They realized they have tons of fun things to do and we all realized that we like each other a lot more than we did the previous weeks. Now what to do…we need to set some new rules into place to govern our family in this area. We’ve gotten lots of ideas from friends that we love and respect about how they treat this topic. How about you? What rules do you have in place to limit screen time? I’d love to hear your suggestions!