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If you use tokens for screen time. . .


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#1 1bassoon

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Posted 14 May 2009 - 07:48 PM

do you care to share how your system works?

My kids have lost ALL screen time this week - mostly b/c it seems to be the first thing on their minds each morning, as in, "What time do I get to play computer, Mom?" They're not getting it back until there are some serious attitude changes around here, and when they DO get it back, I need to make some big adjustments.

So - share! What works? I'm leery of implementing anything complicated. . . . . .

#2 Quill

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Posted 14 May 2009 - 08:26 PM

I do use tokens for media. They get 2 that are worth 30 minutes a piece, per day. They can choose the media they spend it on: TV, computer, Nintendo or Wii. They use a timer to stay in their time limit.

We have an expectation around here that Wii, computer and DS is only after schoolwork has been completed. I do bend that expectation once in a while when they have a new game. For the past week, ds has been playing a new Wii game in the morning, after he has gotten ready to begin school, but still before 9:00, when we begin. I don't really mind this, but ds is also a pretty agreeable kid and so I don't worry much that he will abuse this temporary priviledge.

IKWYM about attitude, though. I have wanted at times to institute a media-free month, but dh thinks that's draconian and unnecessarily rigid.

#3 Frontier Mom

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Posted 14 May 2009 - 08:37 PM

I'd like to jump in and ask what type of tokens you use and how do you keep up with them. I agree with you, I need accountability but not more work for me.

#4 CalicoKat

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Posted 14 May 2009 - 08:45 PM

we used tokens for a looong while for screen time. But it got complicated with the mixing things up and then one kid started stealing them from the others.

Sooo, here's what we do now. Screen time is limited to a half hour M-F for those who choose to cheerfully finish their daily school work. Since I keep track of what's done (corrections too) then it's easy, "Is your work done?" We use the oven timer to keep track of the 30 minutes.

On Saturday Wii and Playstation are added as priviledges for those who cheerfullly finish their assigned chores. DH assigns Saturday chores in the evening so enthusiastic workers can start before breakfast -- their request. :) Screen time on Saturday is also a specific number of minutes. Usually it's an hour.

Well that's what it's evolved to here. Hope you can find what works for your brood.

#5 Quill

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Posted 14 May 2009 - 09:04 PM

I'd like to jump in and ask what type of tokens you use and how do you keep up with them.


I had some poker chips that I wrote their initials on with a Sharpie. They were to put them in the designated Mason jar. Eventually, we moved away from the physical token, which they call "Chips". We still speak of Chips, but physical chips have not changed hands for a very long time. This I guess depends on how likely or unlikely you kids are to "sneak" time if you don't physically exchange the token and monitor it carefully.

One thing I do is only one child pays a chip for something if they are both using. So, if they both watch Pokemon, it only costs one person a chip. (It's up to them to work out whose chip.) It would be ridiculously difficult otherwise to enforce.

As an aside, ds does try to get around this sometimes. My 4yo doesn't have "Chips" yet, so ds9 will convince ds4 to watch something on TV that he wants to watch, so he doesn't have to spend his chip. :001_rolleyes: Again, this hasn't reached a level of abuse, and after all, ds4 can't watch hours and hours of tv, either, so I turn a blind eye to this type of bargaining.

#6 Frontier Mom

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Posted 14 May 2009 - 09:18 PM

Thanks. That helps me clarify some.

#7 eternalknot

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Posted 14 May 2009 - 09:30 PM

Disclaimer: I don't use this type of system. I do, however, limit media time so I understand your concerns.

I wonder if the token system isn't in some way encouraging the attitude? Sort of like a "you can't have dessert until you eat your carrots" thing where the dessert is made to be so enticing, that the carrots will never taste as 'good' as the dessert does. Does that make any sense? It sounds like the system is encouraging the attitude, or at the very least enabling it, for the personalities your kids seem to have. (FWIW, my kid has the type of personality like this which is why I don't use this method!)

If they KNEW that they were going to get their media time regardless, ... after a brief period of adjustment, do you think they would still focus so much on the computer time? As in, "I have to do it now because I may lose my token later in the day" (sort of like how I am with my internet time LOL, I feel like I have to get my 'fix' early in the morning before the rest of the day goes awry and I lose my opportunity! Whereas if I knew I could schedule 30 minutes of online time anywhere throughout the day, I'd be less anxious to get that 30 minutes first thing in the A.M. once the newness wore off.)

Is there significant harm in allowing them their 30 minutes of screen time in the morning before school? With the understanding (and trial period) that then school would be done compliantly? This works for my kid's personality. He gets it out of his system (at his leisure, occasionally before school but not frequently) and then is fine the rest of the day. He knows he'll get his 30 minutes at some point. It's not a carrot I dangle as incentive (in that I withhold it as a rule, for poor behavior) BUT it's definitely a privilege, and privileges (as a rule) are contingent upon responsible behavior (in general). The two go hand in hand; the focus is on responsibility earns privileges moreso than on irresponsibility leads to a revoking of privileges. Small marketing tweak, with significant positive output :D

If school begins at x-time, the child can learn how to manage his time so that he can be "on time" for school. Allowing for a period of adjustment, I think this arrangment could address the attitude issue; it becomes less of a control issue between parent/child and more of an obvious (to the child) "I'm extending you x-privilege, which comes with y-responsibility".

The adults know that the child is ultimately in 'control' either way (his behavior controls how the adult gives/takes tokens); but a child's perception differs - the parent is just being "mean," even if the tokens were deservedly taken away. Give the child perceived control (control over when he gets to use his alloted screen time), and sometimes it becomes clearer to him: I had my 30 minutes on the computer, now I have to do school. If I don't do school compliantly, mom might revert back to the token system! (LOL) Essentially the same set-up of earning screen time, but things appear differently to the child. He may be more apt to take accountability and responsibility for earning his privilege of screen time, appropriately exercising his control over the situation through 'right' behavior after the fact.

Good grief, the psycho-babble! I don't even know if that makes sense outside of my own head, but there it is. Really, though - it's all in how you present it to the kids. Simply re-tailor your 'product' (screen time) to your evolving audience (growing kids).

#8 1bassoon

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Posted 14 May 2009 - 10:01 PM

Good stuff, and great thoughts.

I'm going to mull over this in the next few weeks. I absolutely see what you're saying. . . . . the end game result is that we, as parents, want our children to move more toward self-regulation, and away from seeing the us as the obstacle to get what they want.

Absolutely.

We do need to spend a few weeks rediscovering "other things to do". In just 3 days, we've built lego models of Hobbiton, drawn maps of imaginary lands, played outside more, and practiced piano more. Their brains need to be recalibrated, kwim?

And, truthfully - I have to own this problem. I've fallen into slothfulness, and taken the easy route out, "OK! OK! Go play computer so I can have a minute of peace and quiet!" instead of encouraging other avenues of occupation. I'm probably the only one, right? ;)

Oh, and for what it's worth -and I SO wonder about the connection, here - my two who are the biggest video/tv/media fanatics are the ones who are my pickiest eaters. The two who are "eh" about their computer time, and are more easily self-entertained, definitely are my more adventuresome eaters.

Don't know what that's all about. But it's out there.

Thanks for the replies - keep them coming!

#9 Amber in AUS

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Posted 15 May 2009 - 12:28 AM

It is amazing that they can get up to when there is no media on their way. I seriously limit the amount of TV my kiddos get during the week. Today is an exception, they are knackered from a busy week so are relaxing infront of a DVD now but once it is finished no more TV for the rest of the day. Most of the time tho we are TV free during the week.

Rather than having them watch at all odd times why not make a TV hour say 4 to 5 in the evening (or something like that) they can choose what to watch during that hour and that is it. You could make it media hour and have them choose between computer or TV. If you want to relate it to behaviour then do a 1 in all in. If 1 kid acts up everyone misses out. Being part of a team can make kids more concious of their actions.

I don't use TV as a reward, it just isn't part of our day. They do play on the computer occasionally but not enough to justify monitoring closely.

On the weekend we are free-er with TV, mostly because DH LOVES the TV, i couldn't give a hoot. Personally i think i would prefer if we didn't have one. Mostly he is watching sport or a doco. At least it isn't mindless soapies or anything.

I liken TV to an addiction, the more they get, the more they want, the more obsessive they become over it. A few TV free weeks will do them good. They will discover plenty of new things to do with their time.

#10 Peela

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Posted 15 May 2009 - 07:01 AM

I find that self regulation is very difficult for my kids- teens now- and releasing restrictions only increases screen time to an unreasonable extent. I recently cracked down- on myself as well as them. It feels much better for us all.
My rule for a long time was an hour a day M-F and 2 hours Saturdays and Sundays. However I wasn't good at monitoring that- I have made sure I am strict on monitoring it again and everyone is happier.

#11 dirty ethel rackham

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Posted 15 May 2009 - 08:54 AM

I haven't had to use tokens in quite a while, but I did use them successfully in the past. We had a bad TV/computer habit right after our move and I was pregnant with my youngest (it had become my babysitter.) We needed to make a change. After a no-screen-time week, I implemented the token system. I made up tokens out of paper and laminated them. Each child got a different color paper. Each token was worth 30 minutes of screen time (TV, computer games, etc.) and each child got 3 per day. The rule was that they could not use them all in a row, but had to do something physical in between. Also, they had to set the timer (for computer time) and would lose all their tokens if they forgot. If two children were playing or watching together, they both had to use their tokens. Since I only gave each child 3 tokens (not a week's worth), they couldn't save them up. When we watched a show or a movie as a family, then those were freebies - no tokens required.

I really did not use the token system as currency for behavior unless I felt the behavior was a related to screen time: "too much screen time making you grouchy - I guess you shouldn't use the rest of yours today." "Didn't set the timer? No more today and no tokens tomorrow." I left it to my discretion whether or not they got them at all. I would often tell them that screen time was getting too important so we needed to take a break. Asking about it (especially in a bratty way) would extend the break. I made sure that they understood it to be a privilege doled out at my discretion, not a right about which they could argue.

After about a year of the token system, I was able to drop it because my kids developed better habits and a better attitude.

ETA: We did not allow the TV on during school-time AT ALL, unless it was a program chosen specifically for an educational goal. So, basically, the TV was only on in the evening. Also, computer games were only to be done after schoolwork was done unless I gave permission.

Edited by dirty ethel rackham, 15 May 2009 - 08:58 AM.


#12 Frontier Mom

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Posted 15 May 2009 - 09:04 AM

I do find my dc's turn to screen time more if they are bored. Don't adults as well? I do find that when mine are heavy in the screen time area, I am usually lite in the academic and project areas.

When we are actively in the learning mode, my dc's rarely if ever try to watch anything during the week. They just don't have that much free time and what they have they want to spend outside. I'm afraid a token system will only create more work for me, time I can use planning some interesting projects or learning directives.

All this to say, I agree that some personalities are just drawn to the screen more than others. I have one ds that we would have paid when smaller to sit and watch a DVD. He has absolutely no interest in anything with a screen. Five minutes and he is out. Another one of my ds's would watch something all day, play video games and then turn on the computer.

My dc's even say that I would never have a TV but my dh likes to watch sports and Fox News. I just don't have the time or desire. I guess I just need to keep them busy with learning activities and make TV not so much fun.


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