On several occasions, I’ve been asked to write about screen time rules at our house. Setting the rules is one thing — that’s the easy part! It’s getting kids to adhere to them that’s the battle. These negotiations are a constant for us as the kids get older and more technology becomes available. Most parents, including us, try to maintain balance and set boundaries for our children with their TV, internet, and gaming time.
Don’t get me wrong. I definitely believe technology has its place in educational opportunities for kids. But summer vacation means looooong days at home. During the summertime, I need to make sure screen time doesn’t go unchecked. I don’t want my kids spending all day staring at a screen instead of playing outside or interacting with other kids. So, we set aside certain blocks of time for kids to use their screen time. It breaks up the day with routine, which is helpful for me and keeps them happy, too.
We’re sticklers about our screen time rules in the summer. Studies show how important it is to set these limits for kids. Just because they have the technology all over the place does NOT mean they get free reign of it. At our house, screen time is a privilege, and it can be taken away. When everyone knows the rules, we end up with less whining and fewer negotiations.
Here are a few strategies we like:
1. Screen time is earned
We use the stick system at our house. They can earn blocks of screen time based on obedience and respect for that day. They get to redeem their screen time stick the next day. It’s up to them when they use it and how they use it. This helps both parents and kids to keep up with screen time. No one can complain.
2. Set a timer
It’s easy to know that 30 minutes of screen time has been used when kids are watching TV. One half-hour show and you’re done. But when it’s a movie or games on the iPad, setting a timer is the easiest way to monitor usage. Time flies pretty fast when a child is absorbed in technology. A timer offers a no-arguing start and stop.
3. Create stations
Giving kids blocks of time with different activities helps the day go faster and alleviates boredom. Outside play can be a station. So can reading, games together, drawing, or art activities. We make screen time another one of the stations in the summer mix.
4. “Clean before screen”
This is so ingrained in my kids that, when we announce a TV show is about to come on, they immediately start picking up. You can even use a chart to see who has cleaned what to earn screen time. Certain chores equate to certain amounts of screen time (see #1).
5. Serving others
Of course we want our kids to do things for other people out of the goodness of their hearts. But they are still pretty young. Sometimes they need a little bit of incentive. Doing nice things for others is a good way for them to “earn” small amounts of screen time. They can help out their siblings without being asked. They can do extra chores for me or my husband. They can even find small things to do for people on our street and in our community. My hope here is that they will see the benefits of serving others and begin to do it on their own without reward as they get older.
Those are a few of our screen time rules when school isn’t in session. How do you manage summer screen time with your kids?