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Managing screen time


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How do others on here manage screen time (computer, iPad, Wii, etc)? There are so many educational opportunities that can be accessed with the internet or iPad. But my children, especially my oldest 8yo Aspie son, have a weird relationship with screens that almost seems like an addiction. The more time they get, the more time they want, and the harder time they have occupying their non-screen time productively (ie in any way other than whining and begging for more screen time). And although my oldest will choose to play live chess against opponents from around the world with his screen time (educational and time well spent), he could do that for six hours in a row if allowed to, and will still beg for more time. We don't own a television, and the kids generally watch only an hour or so of videos per week cumulatively, so there is little viewing time added to the computer game time. Still, a family down the block allows their kids NO video/screen/computer time at all, and the kids always seem to be engaged in something wonderful - building clay figurines, making up secret codes, etc... thoughts?

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This summer we've tied screen time (1 hour allowed per day) to work. Each week DDs have to earn a minimum amount of points (earned by doing jobs) in order to get the benefit of computer time the following week. Most jobs are worth 5 points and they must earn 60 points this week in order to have computer time and videos next week. If they earn the points they can use the laptop which has a time limit programmed to their user account. Although they can learn from the computer, I think they learn more valuable skills and knowledge from books or playing. Thirty minutes to an hour per day seems like plenty. If they don't use the time each day, I do not accumulate it to the next day.


At the end of the school year when my dd11 was on computer restriction for five days, she realized that she missed playing and having more free time away from the computer so she asked me to change her passwords and not tell her. I was surprised by this but it's worked well. When she wants to log on she has to go through me which diminishes the temptation. I know this wouldn't work for every kid and it would drive me crazy if she was asking me all the time but it has worked for her.

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I think it can be different for kids who aren't neurotypical. And when a child really does have an addiction or a problem with screens, then I think it's fair to take drastic measures.


That said, I think screens are valuable. I like screens. I don't mind if my kids like them too. I have tried to not set up an antagonistic relationship with them. I don't like reward systems that are tied to screens. For the most part, we don't have many screen issues here.


I divide our screen use into three general categories:


Educational screens - to be used for specific purposes during school time OR when we're stuck somewhere waiting or the like, my kids are generally allowed to play educational games on the iPad


Creative screens - things like programming, art, moviemaking - I allow unlimited use of screens in their free time for this


Purely recreational screens - Wii, TV shows, etc. - we limit this to a window of a couple of hours a day the vast majority of the time

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I think that different kids have different needs when it comes to managing screen time. My dd8 can spend hours with a computer and then get off and do something fun and creative without missing a beat. But my ds5 acts like you are describing. The more he gets, the more he asks about getting more. I have noticed a lot of people being reluctant to call this addictive behavior, but that is exactly what it is. When you can't think of anything other than that one thing, you are addicted. As far as I am concerned, addictions in any form are unhealthy, and I don't hesitate to limit (or ban) the thing my kid is addicted to. I had a grown niece come to stay with us for a while, and she actually slept with her phone and would be up in the middle of the night talking to people, waking everyone up. I do not want my kids growing up like that.


I have found a "sweet spot" happens around 1 hour of screen time a day. More than that, and I am fielding requests for more all day long. So both of my kids have the same rule--one hour per day. I don't think this is unfair to my dd8, because she spends her time so well, no matter what she does.

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We try to have a fairly neutral attitude towards screen time. We have tried to do no screen before age 7, although the youngest kid has gotten away with more just because she's the youngest. After 7 it is, in theory, limited to 1 hour per day, but we have very rarely needed to enforce that limit. We do not use screen time as a reward; it is just another possible leisure activity on a par with reading a book, playing a board game or kicking a ball. The kids are allowed on the computer (either educational games or internet TV) provided they have done all their school stuff and chores. Honestly, it's been somewhat of a non issue so far. But I'm expecting we'll probably encounter more pressure for screen time now they are at school and finding out what their classmates watch/play. (And that they have mobile phones.)

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I've felt like my kids are spending too much time on the ipads since we have been "off" for the summer... and since they discovered Minecraft. So far I'm letting it go because (a ) what's summer break without loosening up a little? (b ) most days they've been at one camp or another for 5-6 hours, and (c ) they are SO creative and cooperative (with each other) in the game that I hate to pull them away! They'll come show me the houses and other creations they have built, and I'm amazed! How can this not be doing them some good? If they're watching TV or playing "mindless" games, I do tend to pull them away with another activity after an hiur or two, but we don't have any firm rules (yet). So far I've been able to get away with having mostly educational TV/videos (thank you, TiVo!) and ipad/computer games. I'm sure it will be very different in a few years.


They also can't play when the ipads are plugged in, so that's a sort of self-limiter as well. When batteries get low they will go outside or do other (non-screen) things. I don't think I'm going to relocate the chargers any time soon :) . When we start up schoolwork & various extracurriculars next month, I expect our days will be full enough once again that the time available for (non-school) screen things will be limited enough right there.

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It's an issue here. My boys like playing games that take longer to get the the 'ah I did it' feeling. I'm talking about things like Minecraft, AlphaCentari, Roblox, etc. These can be addicting since they take so long to get a feeling of accomplishment.


However they also need access to check their email for scouts and any online classes. They also use the computer for all their papers and most of their written homework... at least for their co-op classes (hist, Lit, and writing). This alone is about 4hrs a week per class so 12hrs/wk just for doing homework. Since we've had hard drive crashes here they use google docs so nothing gets lost... however that requires internet access also.


First I use our router to control internet use and limit websites... if I didn't list it you can't go there! This got relaxed when school work and chores were done. Then I realized I need to watch what they were doing on the computer since they had games that didn't need the internet... so they were restricted to working where I could see the screens (they use laptops). This became hard to always watch, so last thing I've tried was a trial of Kidswatch Time Management Software. I picked this one because it was the only one, that I could tell, that would restrict by program as well as time and internet use. It worked pretty well but since it was on their laptops I needed to have them log off and have me log in to make any changes (like adding a website, program, or changing a time limit (because they got done early or didn't get done), etc).


We also have plenty of educational computer games and programs that some use like Reading Detective, MindBenders, Typing Instructor, TimezAttack, etc.


hmm, this of course is all coming from Mom who is on the computer at 11:40 at night just checking the WTM boards....again. :huh:

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We went to a cold turkey rule of No Moving Screens. The iPad and desktop get used only for Google Books, Alcumus, Artes Latinae, and the odd painting that we can't find in any of our art books. No more YouTube anything, typing instructor, math games, nothing. The addictive behaviors only seem to attach to screen movement.


This was matched by parental vows not to have our eyes flicking to little screens when we're with the children. When we're always glancing at our own screens, we're teaching them that those screens are more interesting than the real life around us.


There's been massive improvements in attitudes and choice of leisure activities all around.

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My dc were allowed to watch TV in the morning...after they had eaten breakfast and were dressed, and it had to be off by 9. Since they didn't get up until 7:30 or 8, there wasn't much time for TV.


No TV until after 3, and often by then they were busy doing other stuff, or we were out of the house. We ate dinner at 4:30--no TV then. After that, there was church, or a dance class, and the dc were in bed by 7:30 or 8...not much time for TV then, either (prime time on the west coast doesn't start until 8 p.m.).


If my dc had seemed way too attracted to screens, I'd have cut them out altogether.

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Tomorrow, after he does schoolwork, music, and math tutor, he plans to go to Games Workshop to play and hang out for about 6 hours. I can't imagine why that would be any better use of leisure time than playing MapleStory or another MMO. Halo, bleh, but he is helping me raid on Clash of Clans between games. :)


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Let me preface that older dd is 6, younger is 2. I think that families have different needs for screentime for different seasons of their lives. There are nights that I am still up late with dd2. On the following day, older dd6 will often watch PBS while I nap with the baby. I don't feel bad about this.


When we have teens with smartphones, R-rated movies, and Facebook, the rules will change to reflect our family's needs and goals.



Disclaimer: I am unafraid of tv/screentime. I do not think that it is the creativity killer it is made out to be. While a video education is NOT a substitute for human interaction and discussion of issues and subjects (how to multiply, what is a noun, why did Harriet Tubman run away from her master?), video can enrich our understanding of the world.


Just yesterday, dd6 and I watched a video on math. I turned to her and said, "Ferb, I KNOW what we're going to do today!" (or tomorrow). She agreed, and is excited about the mathy project.


She stunned Daddy at age 4 by identifying the toy spider she bought as a black widow. Why? Because she watched a show with me about venomous creatures nearly a year before.


She drew the conclusion yesterday that the gender of turtle eggs is affected by temperature just like with crocodile eggs (Wild Kratts).


She wants our family to be a Food Chain for Halloween this year (Wild Kratts).


She discusses the finer points of Egyptian engineering of Egyptian chariots and Egyptian seafaring boats. She understands that some archeologists try to rebuild ancient technologies to learn about the past. (Nova).


And on and on and on.


What can I say as a parent except, "I should let you watch more tv!" :tongue_smilie:



During the school year, dd6 gets 30 minutes of "free TV" per day.


If dd6 wants more tv, she must earn it by doing schoolwork. If she does 4 subjects, she earns a second 30 minute block. Then another 3 subjects will earn her another block. Then 2. Then 1.


All tv time must be "educational" during the day (PBS or an educational dvd). If she has the self-control to save her tv time "until daddy is home," then she can watch whatever she wants (movies, library videos). In an ideal situation, she is working straight through during the day, without big chunks of tv during our learning time but with the reward of Scooby Doo at the end of the day.


We have a TIVO DVR with all of the kids' favorite shows saved, so it is easy to identify a specific block of time. The TIVO turns the show off when it is over, so I don't have to be the bad guy. The added advantage is that tv screen time can be interrupted at any time for any reason: meal, time to go somewhere, little sister is napping so we should do some math). The TIVO saves your place and can be rewound is something is missed.


I have not limited computer screen time yet, but nearly all of our computer games and Nook apps are educational: PBS, Reader Rabbit, Starfall, MathBlaster.



On weekends, our kids seem to watch a lot of junk tv. I have tried to modify this by demanding a certain amount of group reading or activities between shows. I discuss with dd6 about how we want to do more than just watch tv all day.



This summer, we are simply gone a lot (pool, sports, camp), so the tv is not on. Sometimes, we are so busy that when we are home, I pop in an educational dvd from the public library for some "suggested downtime."


Favorites this summer are:

Inspector Gadget's Field Trips

Disney Imagineering (engineering and science concepts)



Note that we also logging 80 minutes of group reading time each day for the library program. I am not organized enough to log dd's random reading on her own, so dd6's actual reading is higher.

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My dd didn't know how to fill free-time, some children you have to teach that.

So a few summers ago I made a list for dd:


When I'm getting bored I can :

- read

- play with playmobiel /K'nex

- make a Jigsaw

- craft

- play the piano

- do nothing


I made the list not to long, because she would be overwhelmed by the choices.

If she didn't know what to do she looked at her list.

This seems to help her.

I just had to remind her she had a list.

There are more systems then this, but you might get the idea.


As she has a habit to watch tv at certain times, I have to remind her that watching tv is a choice, that she can play or read, but with getting older she seems more able to keep herself busy without screens ;-)



This is a really good point. I remember being a kid and being bored during the summer. I would ask my mom what I could do, and she would answer, "Use the brain God gave you," followed by, "If you don't stop complaining, I will give you something to do" (meaning work). I would have benefited greatly by having someone show me what I could do. But instead I mostly sat around and did nothing all summer.

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