Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A new screen time management tool


It's one of those controversial subjects between parents - how much "screen time" do you allow your children?  Within my social circle, the answer ranges from "only one movie a week" to "I don't put limits on it at all".

The "experts" tell us to limit screen time to one hour a day, which I can see ... and yet it would not work for us.  No - we love our minecraft, wii, plants vs. zombies, youtube, netflix, and too much, and I am inclined toward the philosophy of letting them do what they love.

But letting them have as much screen time as they wanted wasn't working for us either.  The primary problem became that they both wanted access to the same devices at the same time, and ended up fighting over them all the time.  It was driving me crazy.

So I made up these "Screen Time Tickets".  The tickets can be used to purchase screen time on any of our devices that are available at the time.  The kids need to have a ticket if they want to do any "non-educational/creative" screen time on a school day, and they get a ticket for each chore they do, each school subject they complete, or for one hour of non-screen and no-fighting play with each other or one hour spent alone outside.  Yep, there is an element of bribery to this system, but getting them to do chores or schoolwork isn't the real point.

They aren't fighting over the computer anymore, and that is the real value here.  When someone had to "cash in a ticket" to get the device, and when there is a timer running for how long they will be on that device, the other one is more willing to wait.  Because they get about the same number of tickets each day, they know it's "fair".  And I know that there will be a balance between the screen and more active time.

The downside is that now I am constantly running a bank and operating timers.  But it's worth it.

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