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Loosening the reins on screen use- what does it look like?


Monica_in_Switzerland
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This is particularly for my soon-to-be 7 and 9 year olds.  

 

Currently, they must ask before using any screens.  Each day, they do duolingo, as well as a handful of educational apps (dragon box, etc.), totaling maybe 30 minutes per kid.  Over the course of a day, they probably have another hour of leisure time with a screen, usually a movie or youtube videos about minecraft or cupcake decorating (lol).  They also occasionally do stop motion movies, scratch programming, or regular videos/pictures with the iPad.  

 

I am planning on getting them kindle Fire tablets of their own for their birthdays in a month.  I plan on allowing minecraft, in addition to stop motion video apps and educational apps, and ebooks and audiobooks, of course.  

 

I would love to loosen up the reins so that I don't need to micromanage these devices.  I already know I can set parental controls on them, which I will- specifically bed time/wake time, safe internet browsing, no purchasing without approval, etc.  I don't plan on using FreeTime unless I really need to, I will just make sure they have done their required reading time before I give the ok for games.  If I find them sneaking around about this, I'll just take the devices- I'd like this aspect to be trust-based rather than a locked/unlocked device.

 

Anyway, this will be a big shift in our family and I'm looking for tips, advice, etc. on making a smooth transition to more freedom with screens.  

 

My current thoughts:

- a contract listing amount of time to read before game play

- any whining or complaining about being asked to turn off device = loss of device for a week

- if friends ask them to come out to play, they must GO!  lol

 

 

 

My desire to loosen the reins is related a lot to things I've read on Project Based Homeschooling and Bravewriter.  So if you have opinions from those perspectives, I'm especially grateful!

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I think once you open the door to Minecraft, you've opened Pandora's box for that age. You'll see many different opinions here, but I think giving kids devises and an addictive game and expecting self management is unrealistic. I also don't think most kids that age get the "contract" concept.

 

I might try the plan without Minecraftand test that first. Otherwise I'd give a time limit per day for all mon school usage and then they get put up.

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We've found just having a general block of time set aside for gaming/internet stuff has worked.  But the kids have to understand that this time is not owed them!  It can be bumped for other things of greater value or import that might come along during that time block.  

 

I do think if you get too strict and rigid it can create a backlash of sneaking around, etc.  

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I really think it's just going to take you some trial and error with your specific kids.

 

My 5 and 8yos don't have any formal restrictions unless you count gathering up devices before bedtime.  They've never had any real restrictions.  Once in a while, they do seem to go overboard and we'll tell them to shut it down, but it's surprisingly rare.  They pull out Legos, run around outside, make up stories with stuffed animals, read, play board games...  oh, and school work. We haven't had many problems at all.

 

My daughters need a little more monitoring or school work would never get done.

 

My oldest (with ASD) had a lot more trouble self-regulating. Okay, he had almost no ability to self-regulate.  We did have to stay on top of him for many years.

 

I don't think our approaches had any impact on their abilities or lack of ability to regulate.  We just took over where needed and stepped back from where we weren't.

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Well, let's see. My 12 yo has had a phone since age 9. She mostly uses it for listening to music, playing games, texting and video chatting with friends (including her cousin in Texas), and watching youTube/netflix/hulu etc. She has a laptop, which she uses for the same things (less for games) as well as for writing and printing this and that, as well as doing schoolwork, which she prefers to do on her laptop over doing on the computer the online school provided, except for a few things where she doesn't have a choice because of needed software loaded on the school computer.

YouTube especially gives her a lot of ideas for projects which she then actually does--various refashioning of clothing, craft projects, hairstyles, etc. She actually learns a lot on YouTube and is good at finding age-appropriate stuff. She has a YouTube channel, and I follow her so I can see what stuff she's watching even when I'm not there, as well as have the passwords to log on to it myself if necessary.

Her attention span for games is pretty short. She's never played minecraft, just various free Android games, often involving pet care or something sort of artsy like building donuts or the electronic equivalent to paper dolls.

 

DS has a tablet. He often forgets to charge it, which significantly limits how much he plays on it. Also, he prefers building things with legos and blocks or doing puzzles. He plays games on his tablet, and watches shows on Netflix or Hulu. 

 

We have a Wii. It seldom gets turned on. Sometimes there will be a spurt of game play for a few days, then they ignore it.

 

The kids are required to take turns with the big TV, including watching shows and playing Wii. DS will often start a show then wander off and play. DD often prefers to watch something on a small screen in her room because there are fewer distractions. DD basically uses her phone for down time, but also goes out and plays with friends and spends time with her brother, and does her art projects. I think both of them are good at balancing their screen time.

 

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Thanks for the advice so far.  I appreciate knowing that self-regulation at these ages is unrealistic- I will try to be more clear with times when devices are available.  

 

Obviously no one their ages NEEDS any sort of electronic device.  Neither do I, for that matter.  But because I am trying to embrace a more project-based homeschool model, life would be much easier if we weren't fighting over the screens we already have.  

 

As a general rule, I am not a screen person.  We don't even own a tv.  But I have been amazed at what my kids have learned through youtube, at the little videos they have made in stop motion, and the things my son has created in Scratch.  So I am willing to start making some room for screens in our day, and looking for advice on that front.  

 

When I was a kid, I used to spend the summers playing Sim City, Carmen Sandiego, and Oregon Trail.  I don't really see how letting them play Minecraft is much different, especially with the advice given to set aside a time chunk for that rather than free rein.  

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Every time I try to loosen up with my kids, who are almost 14 and 13, it has been a flaming disaster. I also had problems with my now-21 year old when she was a teen.

 

My advice is never to give free access to electronics. Clear parameters are the better bet. Don't expect kids to naturally regulate at a point you are comfortable with unless you are comfortable with unlimited usage.

 

My kids don't do Minecraft, but every friend I have who lets their kids use it says it's a huge hassle and source of contention.

 

I let my kids play Clash of Clans so they could talk to their cousin. It was a total clusterf*ck and I ended up banning it.

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I don't think 7 & 9 year olds are mature enough to have their own electronic devices. There are plenty of other things they can do with their time that are enjoyable. 

 

Maybe you'd din't fully read my original post?  I'm looking for advice on making a smooth transition to slightly freer electronics usage.  Whether or not you think my kids should have kindles is irrelevant.  

 

I've spent many years demonizing electronics for children.  My kids have never owned a battery operated toy, that's how militant I have been about this.  But I cannot deny that after watching lots of cupcake videos on youtube, my 6 year old dd filled up a pastry bag and made gourmet cupcake and sold them with great success.  I will pretend that the hours of time my ds has spent with his dad watching geology and paleontology videos and websites has been wasted.  And yes, they have gone out and dug for fossils multiple times, collected rocks, and been to rock/gym trade shows.  

 

If adding individual screens causes our family dynamic to fall apart into isolated bubbles, then I will remove them.  If my ds and dd spend hours together building a world in miecraft and remember if for the rest of their lives as a positive shared memory, then I won't.  It's not rocket science.

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Every time I try to loosen up with my kids, who are almost 14 and 13, it has been a flaming disaster. I also had problems with my now-21 year old when she was a teen.

 

My advice is never to give free access to electronics. Clear parameters are the better bet. Don't expect kids to naturally regulate at a point you are comfortable with unless you are comfortable with unlimited usage.

 

My kids don't do Minecraft, but every friend I have who lets their kids use it says it's a huge hassle and source of contention.

 

I let my kids play Clash of Clans so they could talk to their cousin. It was a total clusterf*ck and I ended up banning it.

 

What exactly was causing the problems with the games?  Did they just become obsessed?  

 

My "problem" is that my kids are ALREADY obsessed with minecraft.  So any free time I give them, they go and watch other people playing it on youtube!  I would rather they play it themselves.  I guess I could forbid the very mention of MC in the home, but that seems crazy for a game that fundamentally doesn't really have "adult" content.  

 

My feeling is that by loosening up now, there will be more room for dialogue and less fighting in the teen years.  The families I know IRL who have more liberal electronics policies than I do don't have issues.  Their kids go out and play, and use their tablets when it's rainy.  Could it be a cultural dynamic?  We are not in the suburbs, so if it's not raining, all the neighborhood kids are outside from 3pm-6pm every day, and so are my kids.  

 

I am beginning to think that the above posters who mention that this is very family-dependent have probably got it right, and I'll just have to take the risk and try it.  If it doesn't work, it doesn't work.  

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The problem, for us, was that the games are designed to need constant attention, so the kids felt like they had to constantly be tending the games.

 

My experience has been that the theory of self-regulation doesn't translate into self-regulation in practice. I'd love it if it did, because I DON'T enjoy policing electronics, but over three kids and nine years, it hasn't proven true so far.

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The problem, for us, was that the games are designed to need constant attention, so the kids felt like they had to constantly be tending the games.

 

My experience has been that the theory of self-regulation doesn't translate into self-regulation in practice. I'd love it if it did, because I DON'T enjoy policing electronics, but over three kids and nine years, it hasn't proven true so far.

 

So your recommendation would be to have a set schedule/routine for electronics usage?  Thanks for any details on what IS working in your family.  :-)  

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What we have settled on is no electronics before 4 pm, and they must be turned in by 8:30. This is for during the week. On the weekend we are fairly unlimited, but the kids know if we say "turn it off," they have to turn it off.

 

When my kids were your kids' ages, they got 1 hour a day of electronics, not counting anything we did for school.

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Maybe you'd din't fully read my original post?  I'm looking for advice on making a smooth transition to slightly freer electronics usage.  Whether or not you think my kids should have kindles is irrelevant.  

 

I've spent many years demonizing electronics for children.  My kids have never owned a battery operated toy, that's how militant I have been about this.  But I cannot deny that after watching lots of cupcake videos on youtube, my 6 year old dd filled up a pastry bag and made gourmet cupcake and sold them with great success.  I will pretend that the hours of time my ds has spent with his dad watching geology and paleontology videos and websites has been wasted.  And yes, they have gone out and dug for fossils multiple times, collected rocks, and been to rock/gym trade shows.  

 

If adding individual screens causes our family dynamic to fall apart into isolated bubbles, then I will remove them.  If my ds and dd spend hours together building a world in miecraft and remember if for the rest of their lives as a positive shared memory, then I won't.  It's not rocket science.

Actually I did. I don't think it's irrelevant at all. 

 

While there are great things that can be done by children on computers, there are terrible things, too. One of the significant problems isn't the "isolated bubble" that you are referring to, although that can be an issue, it is screen addiction. Minecraft can easily become a child's world. I have personal knowledge of this and have talked to several other parents that I know personally where this has become a huge issue. One of them considers it a "gateway drug" to hard, violent video games and that conclusion is based on her experience with her family. 

 

You have mentioned that your children are already obsessed with minecraft - that they spend their free time watching other people play it. Playing themselves is not going to make them any less obsessed and very well may, in fact, have the opposite effect.  

 

You are correct in removing a screen isn't "rocket science," but the damage done by  obsession and/or addiction cannot be removed. 

 

Accessing educational material is great, but it should always be done with direct supervision at this age. With that in mind, I don't think it's necessary for kids to have their own personal electronic devices. So, in direct response to your question of what loosening screen time restrictions at your children's ages looks like - it looks like a disaster waiting to happen. I think the ability to self regulate should be developed before  kids are allowed to have personal electronic devices. 

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I think self-regulation happens naturally for some kids but it might not happen fast enough for some moms to be happy about it. Sometimes it takes years to self-regulate! And sometimes all you've done is create a very hard to break habit. My kids have all been different. My oldest never had a problem at all. My oldest son had a problem during early adolescence but pulled himself out of it and matured nicely. My middle son who was so compliant about getting off when asked, has a problem now at age 20. He works and all but spends most of his days off on screen. My 17 yo is super into gaming and every once in a while it might create a conflict (like a couple night ago when he stayed up way too late not realizing we had to get up and get going in the a.m.) But for the most part is quite reasonable and balanced about it, in spite of the fact that he is into competitive gaming. My youngest is I guess more like her oldest sister, so it really isn't a problem.

 

Ideally, the thing to do is to have a lot of other stuff going on so the time on line/playing is naturally limited.

 

We've been deeply blessed by the internet and gaming but like everything in life, it can be hard to find a balance at times.

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hmmm...I have a friend with 3 very compliant kids. When she says "turn it off. No more till tomorrow." The kids might sigh, and do it.

 

My kids (especially 2 of my super focused ones) will say In a minute. Let me finish this one thing and 20 minutes later still be stuck to it. Then I say "Now" and they get huffy and argumentative and pout and sulk and whine for an hour.

 

So for us, games like Minecraft is like me saying "Hey, what OTHER thing can we fuss about today?"

 

But, that's my kids.

 

So for stuff like that, I'd have certain time limits "One hour of screen time per day. No screens after 6. (family time) Games like Minecraft need to be done with another family member, (since you want them to do that together) " Then always have the caveat that this is no guarantee. If its a gorgeous spring day and y'all have spent the whole day outside and the kids suddenly at 7:30 pm decide that "Hey, I've not had MY TIME today! It's not FAIR WAHHHH!!!" It's ok to go, "No big deal. It will be there tomorrow."

 

Also, pay attention to the first thing that they gravitate to when they have free time. If it's electronics, for my family, that's an issue.

 

BTW, when be buy things like computers, they don't belong to anyone. They are mom and dad's laptop, computer, Kindle, etc and parents are nice enough to let the kids use them.

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I did this this past Autumn b/c I had a baby and no yard! :-)

 

For us, I never demonized screens but we had *strict* limits. I do not regret this...I'm talking like preschool/kinder aged kids.

 

ff to now, they get lots of time on the tablet and netflix. But for us the key is absolutely NOT time spent, but time spent doing what? If my kids watch Curious George or a documentary or Bill Nye, it adds happiness to all our lives. In fact they watch a doc. every morning while eating breakfast (I made a netflix profile of just documentaries). We have lots to talk about from these shows, which we've seen over and over.

 

If they watch something like....Madagascar or Dawn of The Croods or something like that, it makes them antsy and hyper and just totally unglued, basically. So shows like that are just banned. They don't get put on the list and they are only allowed to choose from the list.

 

Apps and games are exactly the same way. Minecraft and Angry Birds are HARD NO'S. We know b/c their friends have brought them over. But My Singing Monsters is good to go. Toca Builders (similar to Minecraft) is great. So is Scratch Jr and dragon box.

 

If I occasionally get antsy about the amount of time they spend on the tablet....well, for one thing they share it between the two of them which automatically limits it in an organic way. But also, except for Sundays (the one day we dont do school and they are free to do whatever they like within reason), they read longer every day than they spend on the computer. They play with their irl toys longer than the computer. They're outside on nice days for longer than they are on computers.

 

:shrug: days are long!  School takes three hours max. There's plenty of time for everything they want to do.

 

But yeah so for us, the key is content. If something makes them get that obsessed, unsettled feeling then it's gone forever. One is add and the other is not and this approach works for both.

 

 

 

 

 

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We do parameters. I've allowed things like a vtech smart watch or a locked iPhone in the car for games, and there is a free time block during the day they can play (about an hour or two). Sometimes they can get a snippet right before bed while other people are showing. Otherwise they don't have access. I figure because I let them play with these things at all I'm doing pretty good :lol:

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All right, honestly, you all have me about talked out of Minecraft.   In which case, I will need to completely remove MC from the home (i.e., no minecraft youtube videos either) in order to let this obsession pass.  

 

But I am still thinking that personal tablets are a tool that can be used as tools, rather than entertainment.  Why personal screens?  Right now, I have multiple kids who want multiple different audio books, who want to learn about different things, who want to all be making stop-motion simultaneously...  It is making it very hard for me to implement a project time routine, which is something I want in our homeschool.  

 

Talking to dh about it after dinner tonight, he and I both feel that screens as research tools and ebooks would benefit our house, but the screens-as-entertainment would detract, with the exception of our yearly 13 hour plane flight and the occasional 3 hour train ride.  

 

I apologize, tech wife, I was not generous in my response to you.  I felt your post came off as judgmental and off topic to what I am actually trying to do, but your second post helped to clarify your position as someone who has seen damage done form young screen use.  

 

 

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All right, honestly, you all have me about talked out of Minecraft.   In which case, I will need to completely remove MC from the home (i.e., no minecraft youtube videos either) in order to let this obsession pass.  

 

But I am still thinking that personal tablets are a tool that can be used as tools, rather than entertainment.  Why personal screens?  Right now, I have multiple kids who want multiple different audio books, who want to learn about different things, who want to all be making stop-motion simultaneously...  It is making it very hard for me to implement a project time routine, which is something I want in our homeschool.  

 

Talking to dh about it after dinner tonight, he and I both feel that screens as research tools and ebooks would benefit our house, but the screens-as-entertainment would detract, with the exception of our yearly 13 hour plane flight and the occasional 3 hour train ride.  

 

I apologize, tech wife, I was not generous in my response to you.  I felt your post came off as judgmental and off topic to what I am actually trying to do, but your second post helped to clarify your position as someone who has seen damage done form young screen use.  

 

No worries, Monica! It's hard to me to know how much to share with people, so I try to err on sharing too little rather than too much. 

 

I think your approach to using them as tools is very appropriate for the way you are describing your family's environment and goals. I sincerely hope that everything goes well. 

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4. Show an interest in leisure time activities.

 

 

Yes! This can be really under-rated from reading mamas to children and their computer doo-dads!

Edited by OKBud
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One benefit of more time or 'enough time' - kids get to go deeper. Instead of playing/watching superficially, they start to understand things like game mechanics and narrative. They get interested in things like design, coding, filming, scriptwriting, moderating...and they have time to develop those interests as well.

Maybe some kids. My one kid who is less screen obsessed is the one who is interested in coding and design. My two who are much more screen obsessed don't give a hoot about those things because they require effort. They want screens for completely passive entertainment ... which is fine in limited amounts but not the amounts they would like to use it for.

 

My oldest can't find any time at all to exercise even though it significantly improves her mood and well-being. But she can find hours and hours a day to stare at a screen.

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Maybe some kids. My one kid who is less screen obsessed is the one who is interested in coding and design. My two who are much more screen obsessed don't give a hoot about those things because they require effort. They want screens for completely passive entertainment ... which is fine in limited amounts but not the amounts they would like to use it for.

 

My oldest can't find any time at all to exercise even though it significantly improves her mood and well-being. But she can find hours and hours a day to stare at a screen.

 

yup. you said it.

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Well, as you know, I was dealing with similar dilemma with my ds, though he is older.

 

And I also had concerns about addiction due to having had a friend mess up his life due to a gaming addiction, as well as concerns about physical health issues from these devices.

 

He has had his new device for a few days now. So far no parental controls have been used, but he did consult with me in getting apps and bookmarking sites. I have also seen his recent history of what sites he has visited and they look okay.

 

We don't have much internet access from home, so that cuts down what can be done a good bit. We have almost no non-educational game access from home. We do have access to typing games--deliberately purchased, and have had some for math. Our Mac came loaded with chess and the HP with solitaire cards games. The former I think is educational for logic development, but still like to limit time on it for health reasons. The latter seemed like it was about to get addictive, but then ... I dunno, it just got mostly sort of boring so that took care of itself. My ds has not played minecraft so far as I know.

 

He did the things I think he knew I would approve of--got duolingo bookmarked, khanacademy, etc.  He also got a word program app and started a new story. He asked me for ideas of what audio books were available currently for free that I thought he might like. 

 

 

 

Discussing my concerns, and also letting him see the thread that I had started, and learning that not doing cardio-vascular exercise was one of my concerns, ds started taking very long walk/hikes with the dog again, so that was a huge improvement that came out of discussing what my concerns were.  Possibly for you too if you get clear on what you want the children to do and what you are concerned about with regard to the screens use, that can help to start a conversation that will lead to positive change if change is needed, or positive choices of what should be done with and without the screen use.

 

Of the things you mentioned, I'd be very liberal with stop motion filmmaking time which seems to be a very positive project oriented activity, and a much more active rather than passive use of screens. And, like others, hesitant about Minecraft.

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We have Minecraft pocket edition on the kindle fire. It eats up space like crazy if you don't periodically delete worlds. If no time limit is enforced ds can easily play on the device til the battery dies (he and his cousin were playing on the same server with each other in the same house over the holiday). He went through a huge Minecraft obsession about a year ago and most of the YouTube videos he watched were Minecraft tutorials. He still spends time watching YouTube video game tutorials and reviews, but they are not centered around Minecraft now. He is 7. He does not do well at all with self regulating. This is a problem that extends beyond the Kindle Fire.

 

If the reason for the internet connection is audible, you don't need a Fire for that. http://audible.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/4679/~/does-audible-work-on-all-the-kindle-devices%3F

 

There is no way to truly censor/filter YouTube. I've tried. It's a crap shoot. So really, unless you want to stand over their shoulder then either don't get devices that allow YouTube or ask them to log into the kids' channel and cross your fingers that's all they access. Ds watches YouTube on our Roku on the TV and sometimes on the PC. I've been pretty lenient about it, but have deleted the channel from the Roku before and taken YT away/"banned" certain YouTube channels (verbally told him no). There is no way to really ban them.

 

There are offline Minecraft products. Paper crafts and a set that resembles Lego as well as foam swords and plushies. But if you really want to get them out of that obsession, yeah, I can understand not wanting to put the game on the devices.

 

ETA: The Fire does not belong to ds. He just gets to use it.

Edited by heartlikealion
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DD is 13 and DS is 11.  I passed on getting my DD a Kindle this Christmas, mainly because of the light issue and bedtime, but also because I just don't have the time to monitor screens/internet usage like it needs to be monitored and because we have actual books and movies and a library at our fingertips.  We haven't bought our kids smartphones or their own laptops (and have no plans to, at least in the near future) because once that cat is out of the bag, you won't be getting it back in, no matter what rules and contracts are applied.  Smartphones and recreational internet access simply requires me to put in too much time to properly monitor to take that step.  Unless you don't have ready access to books, movies, and actual human interaction, I honestly don't see how kids need recreational screen time that can't be accessed with a few hours a week of limited access on a family desktop computer that is located in a common area.  Can you tell I think screens are vastly over-rated?

Edited by reefgazer
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In my home, these things are perfectly acceptable, but they are on their free play time.  I don't ban screens, either, but I have a strict time limit for each kid (2 hours/day weekends only) because my kids don't self-regulate.  If you are *sure* your kids can self-regulate (I think that few can, actually), then have at it.  But once that cat is out of the bag, if it's not working, good luck backtracking.  You did ask for opinions, and IMO, it's better to have set times (perhaps you can increase the allowable time?) than allow free access.  But for us, the problem with free access is that it takes preference over all other (more creative and physical) activities.  A computer is really a glorified TV when not used for educational purposes.  I think our generation likes to try and convince themselves that that is not so, but it is. 

 

ETA:  My kids free time clock includes time they spend watching other kids play Minecraft; that counts as their free screen time, so they are much more judicious in not using their free time for that.  Anyway, if your kids absolutely *need* free screen time, my advice would be a set amount of time per day or per week, much like one might set a time limit per week on TV.  That has at least been manageable in our home, to my very picky satisfaction.

Maybe you'd din't fully read my original post?  I'm looking for advice on making a smooth transition to slightly freer electronics usage.  Whether or not you think my kids should have kindles is irrelevant.  

 

I've spent many years demonizing electronics for children.  My kids have never owned a battery operated toy, that's how militant I have been about this.  But I cannot deny that after watching lots of cupcake videos on youtube, my 6 year old dd filled up a pastry bag and made gourmet cupcake and sold them with great success.  I will pretend that the hours of time my ds has spent with his dad watching geology and paleontology videos and websites has been wasted.  And yes, they have gone out and dug for fossils multiple times, collected rocks, and been to rock/gym trade shows.  

 

If adding individual screens causes our family dynamic to fall apart into isolated bubbles, then I will remove them.  If my ds and dd spend hours together building a world in miecraft and remember if for the rest of their lives as a positive shared memory, then I won't.  It's not rocket science.

 

Edited by reefgazer
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This is my problem with screens in our home.  If they are reserved for leisure time, there are no other activities that are as attractive to them, so leisure is basically glorified TV, and no leisure time is ever spent exploring anything  - not hobbies, not physical activity, not friendships. 

Maybe some kids. My one kid who is less screen obsessed is the one who is interested in coding and design. My two who are much more screen obsessed don't give a hoot about those things because they require effort. They want screens for completely passive entertainment ... which is fine in limited amounts but not the amounts they would like to use it for.

My oldest can't find any time at all to exercise even though it significantly improves her mood and well-being. But she can find hours and hours a day to stare at a screen.

 

Edited by reefgazer
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I think once you open the door to Minecraft, you've opened Pandora's box for that age. You'll see many different opinions here, but I think giving kids devises and an addictive game and expecting self management is unrealistic.

I have to agree with this. I'm not anti-Minecraft or games at all, but they certainly are addictive. Ds8 is only allowed to play (non-educational) games on the weekend. That sets a natural limit. But even though he has lots of interests and activities Minecraft is still an obsession that rules conversation. It's frustrating.

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If you don't want to have to micromanage the time, have a set daily time for screens. Determine the amount of time and then let them choose what to do. Then they are not asking all day when they can use xyz--they'll know when and how long. You can still adjust when the time is if needed (and they can still lose the time if needed). I would not "loosen the reins" at ages 7 and 9. Once you loosen, it's really hard to get it back (though at those ages you can easier than at older ages). 

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Maybe you'd din't fully read my original post?  I'm looking for advice on making a smooth transition to slightly freer electronics usage.  Whether or not you think my kids should have kindles is irrelevant.  

 

I've spent many years demonizing electronics for children.  My kids have never owned a battery operated toy, that's how militant I have been about this.  But I cannot deny that after watching lots of cupcake videos on youtube, my 6 year old dd filled up a pastry bag and made gourmet cupcake and sold them with great success.  I will pretend that the hours of time my ds has spent with his dad watching geology and paleontology videos and websites has been wasted.  And yes, they have gone out and dug for fossils multiple times, collected rocks, and been to rock/gym trade shows.  

 

If adding individual screens causes our family dynamic to fall apart into isolated bubbles, then I will remove them.  If my ds and dd spend hours together building a world in miecraft and remember if for the rest of their lives as a positive shared memory, then I won't.  It's not rocket science.

 

One suggestion would be to have specific places in the house where the screens can be used.  DS is not allowed to take his tablet to his bedroom.  He has to be in the family room in order to use it- which is where we all spend most of our day, so he's still interacting with us while using his device.

 

It's great fun when the kids have the same devices and the same games- my kids play together on minecraft quite a bit, and I love that they're sitting in the room interacting both on and off the screen. 

 

Just today DS looked something up about nutrition (totally random) and before he left for dance he got himself a healthy snack he never would have gotten before.  Then he asked what was for dinner and was thrilled because whatever he had looked up told him that the beef stew (that he normally hates) would be a great post-workout meal.

 

Huh.  Electronic devices for the win if he's going to eat his dinner tonight!

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My kids (5, 8, nearly 10) didn't know what Minecraft was until DH downloaded it onto my laptop for them this week.  LoL.  I was an anti-battery Mama, too.  They have a talking cash register they had no idea talked until they saw the same one at a friend's house that actually "worked right."  They were blown away: "MOM, did you know it could TALK??"  It still doesn't have batteries in it.   :lol:

 

I was anti-screens, but I can't really say too much because instead of having TV, DH and I play/watch video games in the evenings.  So Santa got them a Gameboy Advance two years ago and I was thinking we could ease the kids into it over a long period of time.  But then over the next 12 months, grandparents got them an Innotab, KindleFire, a Nook, and by then I said, why not throw in the old Gamecube, too?  They are all at various stages of saving up for their own 2DSes.  Whatever they don't buy themselves belongs to everyone and no one.  

 

I have waffled on this greatly, tried all access, afternoon access, periodic bans, weekend game nights.  They invariably ended up treating it like a right and prefer screens to all else, so right now it's just at my sole discretion.  I usually allow it on weekend evenings, but it sort of depends on what's been going on that week, and how their general behavior has been.  What they don't buy themselves doesn't belong to them.  It's the family's, and therefore under parental jurisdiction.  If they buy it themselves, we give more space for ownership while enforcing logical real-life consequences that ownership brings.  Ie: no one may have the KindleFire at night, but my daughter bought her own 2DS, so she may play it after tuck in time.  If she stays up late playing it and refuses to work the next day because of that choice, the refusal is disciplined as disobedience.

 

My main concerns for screens aren't actually the screens.  One issue is that post-screen, they're wild.  I have no idea why, but it sure doesn't make allowing screens very appealing (they are disciplined for that behavior).  Another is that whatever they see, read, or hear is fair game for their pretend plays.  So I'm cautious of content and I explain (a lot) why entertainment, play, and interpersonal interactions don't all translate one to the other.  And of course, doing too much of anything, even a good thing, is bad for you.

 

I have an "old school" graphite Kindle, and want to get a few more.  My long-term plan there is to have a Kindle for each content subject, and one for adult content (ie: Game of Thrones or Chuck Palahniuk books).  I want a tablet for games and neat apps, and my laptop will eventually become a family computer for internet research, processing, programs, photos, etc.  Social media like Facebook and Twitter is banned in our house for everyone forever.  One of the very few things DH puts his foot down about.  I don't know yet how we'll handle their general internet use.  It's not allowed right now, but I'll look up anything they ask me and find articles and videos about the topic to show them.  

 

My philosophy (now) is that character, environment, and personality will have a greater impact on how any one kid (or adult) handles screens than the screens or content themselves.  And I think that concept isn't limited to screens, but applies to all amoral tools, toys, instruments, etc.  But that being said, it's hard for me not to worry about what any one thing is going to do to them over the long-term.

 

I'm sorry for the novel; just throwing our experience out there.  It really is family-by-family and kid-by-kid; good luck as you work on incorporating screens!

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My desire to loosen the reins is related a lot to things I've read on Project Based Homeschooling and Bravewriter.  So if you have opinions from those perspectives, I'm especially grateful!

 

My kids asked for permission, and I increasingly gave it to them. Asking for permission first allowed me to assess whether or not they were avoiding responsibilities. Sometimes they got permission, sometimes they didn't. Eventually, as they got older and I felt confident with their managing time, they would take the initiative and let me know they were playing. It was asking permission, but more like letting me know, and following up with, "Okay?" I liked this because I wanted my kids to learn to take initiative (not knowing what to do when no one tells you what to do was a skill they had to learn after B&M school, so I approved of this). This took years, but not having a set schedule allowed me the flexibility I needed to reign things in if necessary, or give extra when I needed it. 

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My big girls (10 and 7) got iPads for their last birthday. (We initially got them Fires but no one here liked them, so we sent them back and got iPads). Here are our rules/limits, and it has worked well for us for almost a year.

-First off, we gave them these with the caveat that even though they belong to them, WE monitor usage. They understand that the iPads can be taken away for a time if they cannot follow the rules.

-I took off all internet access. No Safari, YouTube, Pinterest, ect. If they want to google or YouTube something it must be done on either my or dhs iPads, in the common areas of the house, under supervision.

-1 hour of screen time daily. They set their timers, and must turn them off immediately when the timer goes off. No "1 more minute" " can I finish this game?" Ect. Simply because with three of them, it gets ridiculous for me to be policing that they only have ONE more minute or whatever. They know that any whining or arguing results in a five minute penalty for next time. My kids have chosen to use half of their time during the day, and the other half at bedtime.

-School and chores come before iPads.

-No asking, begging, or badgering about iPads before school and chores are done. Asking for iPads before that results in a five minute penalty. This is mostly for my youngest, she will obsess over screens and will ask non stop for them. At five, she understands the rule about not asking.

-Shows on Netflix/Amazon must be approved by me. I am rather lax about adult themes (well, for my ten year old anyway) except sexual innuendo and tweeny bopper bad additude. 😒 If they start mimicking nasty behavior or attitude, that show gets banned.

-No iPads at family/social dinners, restaurants, or when friends are over. When friends come over, iPads are placed in my room, off limits. This not only prevents accidents from roughhousing, but also encourages good host manners.

-All app purchases come to my dh as a request to purchase first, and he has to approve them. They do not know the password for any purchases.

-And probably the biggest thing-iPads are a PRIVILEGE, NOT A RIGHT. They do not NEED a device. They know this. They will survive if we are too busy having fun and they miss their iPad time. Screens do not replace any enriching activities, exercise, or creativity. They are simply a tool to unwind, find information, and text or FaceTime their dad when he's away working. I set limits on my screen use as well. I limit my screen time to one hour while they are awake, i don't turn it on at dinner, ect.

 

We have mine craft, not on a server, just the iPad version, and it's like anything else. Interesting and potentially addicting. My kids played it a bunch when we first got it, but it was a passing thing and after a couple of months they didn't really play it any more. However, the rules we have in place have helped to prevent major addiction and obsessiveness.

 

My girls are heavily involved in outside activities-

Dd10 does four hours of gymnastics, two hours of archery, four hours of PE, coop, and tons of art/creating during the week. She also reads (physical books and on her kindle app) for hours everyday.

Dd7 does nine hours of gymnastics, four hours of PE, and coop each week. She reads daily and has lots of time to play and do arts daily.

Dd5 does two and a half hours of gymnastics, four hours of PE, and coop each week. She also has tons of free play and creating time.

They get outside most everyday-they spend hours playing in the woods and creek, jumping on the trampoline, playing in the sand, riding the zip line, dirt bike, four wheeler, bikes, scooters, skates and pogo sticks. We play board games everyday, I read them bedtime stories every night. I say all this to show that screens can be turned into the 'ENEMY', or they can be just one of the many things kids can choose to do. I used to be super anti-screens. I still don't care for them as passive entertainment, but I have to admit, I HAVE learned a great deal here and elsewhere, and that is made possible because of technology. It doesn't have to be all or nothing. Obviously, I don't think it's wrong to give kids their own technology, so long as there are limits.

 

Hope that was helpful to you. Good luck with whatever you decide to do.

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My two older boys have Kindle Fires but we use a screen time management tool to limit what they can access at what time and for how long. During the school day and at bedtime, reading only. They earn extra time for doing chores around the house. Without this tool, screen time would be a free for all. (I also ban YouTube during the school week since it's mainly a big waste of time.)

 

Sent from my MotoG3 using Tapatalk

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Re Minecraft. I agree that it is a big time suck, but it has some positive points too. I think I would either put strict time limits on it for a while longer, or keep them off of it for a few more years. I agree that time is important for learning some of those computer skills, but your kids are still pretty young that I would not want to encourage it yet.

 

Our kid accounts on our computers are set to log off completely at a specific time of day and won't come back on until a specific hour in the morning, later on the one day a week we need to leave the house early. They also log off between 4 and 5 pm for evening chores. Not even schoolwork can be done on the computers between those times.

 

Opendns Family helps block a lot of nasties. Qustodio also blocks nasties, and it can provide monitoring, reporting, and time management as well. I've tested google searches with both of those and have found that they prevent a LOT from sneaking through.

 

I don't like YouTube's parental controls. On my tablet, it's just a simple toggle between restricted and not restricted, so unless I've locked the whole iPad down to kid friendly, it's easy to undo YouTube. (But again, opendns will prevent a lot of ickies that do slip into YouTube. It works really well on both my tablet and our smartTV.). And on a desktop/laptop, restricted mode blocks a ton of good stuff. It's ridiculous, and it's really hard to undo it.

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My ds was hooked at 6 or 7. Sat in his room playing a game, wet his pants, didn't care. Talked constantly about the game and thinking through the next step, all day long...We cut way back except for specials for many years. For a few years they only had 15 minutes a day for non school work.

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My 7 year old has an iPad and a laptop, and no real restrictions on their use. He has to get his school work done, has to exercise and play, read for pleasure, and can't be a jerk if I tell him he's had enough screen time. He plays and mods Minecraft, watches Stampy videos, and codes in Scratch. Yes, he has his computer obsessions, but he always has obsessions -- whether it's Pokemon cards or Lightning McQueen. The obsessions always fade into something else. He's been very responsible with his devices, and nothing dire has happened to him as a result of us letting him mostly have free reign.

Edited by SeaConquest
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Thank you everyone!  Lots of food for thought.  

 

Thank you for the recommendation of OpenDNS Family.  

 

What is the name of the app that can be used to monitor usage and search terms?  

I use Qustodio for that (it provides VERY detailed monitoring -- I can tell that DD looked at X webpage and searched for Y terms, for instance), but Kindle might have its own stuff, not sure.  I know my friend whose child has a Kindle Fire has been pleased with the parental controls.

 

I just also want to add: good luck!  The whole computer/screen/internet thing is such a hassle, IMO.  Love that they can learn so much awesome stuff, but it sure does make things more complicated.  It's definitely a process to find what's right for your family, and it will change over time as well.  I've gone from "no computers in bedrooms" to "teen needs laptop to take to bedroom where it's quiet so she can do schoolwork."  (Which is why I have monitoring programs, because even though I have a good teen whom I trust, I want a high level of accountability and fail protection, and putting stuff in place now means it won't shock anyone later.)

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My 7 year old has an iPad and a laptop, and no real restrictions on their use.

 

...

 

Yes, he has his computer obsessions, but he always has obsessions -- whether it's Pokemon cards or Lightning McQueen. The obsessions always fade into something else. He's been very responsible with his devices, and nothing dire has happened to him as a result of us letting him mostly have free reign.

 

At seven, it's a bit to early to say that "nothing dire has happened to him." Effects are cumulative over time. 

 

Do you generally require dire situations to be present before you intervene? Because dire, is, well, dire. 

 

Are you talking about obsessions or interests? Interests are healthy. Obsessions, not so much. So, if he is truly obsessed with things at the age of seven, you might want to rethink whether or not something "dire" has been happening. 

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At seven, it's a bit to early to say that "nothing dire has happened to him." Effects are cumulative over time.

 

Do you generally require dire situations to be present before you intervene? Because dire, is, well, dire.

 

Are you talking about obsessions or interests? Interests are healthy. Obsessions, not so much. So, if he is truly obsessed with things at the age of seven, you might want to rethink whether or not something "dire" has been happening.

Thanks for the concern, but I promise that the sky is not falling. I get it if this more permissive style doesn't work for your family, but there's no need to be dramatic to others.

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For ourselves and our teens, unregulated and unstructured means we are on the screen most of the time that we have not specifically planned something else--even when there are chores to be done. The middle/high school rule is that they have to put the phone to bed at lights out (10 p.m. for the middle schooler, 12 a.m. for the high schooler but she usually goes to bed earlier).

 

So, for my step-kids, they are literally on their devices unless forced to get off. But who am I to judge: I am the same way.

 

My bio kids still have no screen time on school days and only if you earn it on weekends. They are 6.5 and 9, so similar ages. I do not foresee anything major changing in primary grades. In middle school I was thinking no screen time after dinner on school nights, to slowly transition to more freedom in high school when you put your phone to bed.

 

I know some people are like, "oh, they'll self regulate". Which is great for those who do. I don't. I love the Internet. It's my vice. It sucks my life away if I don't actively manage it and I am so, so glad I did not have a lot of access to video games or TV when young so that I was able to learn good habits.

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My 6yo daughter plays games including Minecraft and it's not an issue, but mostly because we only really allow this stuff on weekends (there is some screentime, mostly educational, on the weekdays but I do regulate that). That way she feels like she has choice and freedom, but it's limited when you consider everything else that happens on weekends. In your place, I'd make a "Free screen day" (maybe Saturday?) and see how it goes.

 

 

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 This is why we make time for hobbies, physical activity and friendships. 

 

I think what you are missing is that some people will not do this when offered a screen. They will scream, cry, tantrum, and fight not to leave the screen even for planned physical activity. They will say no to sports and then say it's because they want time to "relax" which is inevitably screen time.

 

I know that in your family, that screen is not the #1 attention draw. But some people will literally forsake everything else--for their whole lives--for the screen. Literally. Everything. Forever. I'm not making this up: you can see it. They are not that far off the normal curve. Why, my nephew does it. I have another nephew (actually second cousin in law...) who has serious, serious screen addiction issues. He has done some pretty bad stuff to his grandma, mom, and other grandma to get access to screens.

 

You can't just use words with him. They are a very gentle, loving, educated homeschooling family and they started out very much with a mind to self-regulation, which is sadly how he got to this point.

 

He is a great, great kid. But holy crap, the addiction. She has said to me that she knows if she could do it over she would say no phones or devices until high school, because it has become a real issue for their family.

 

I wish it were not common, but I see it all the time!

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Thanks for the concern, but I promise that the sky is not falling. I get it if this more permissive style doesn't work for your family, but there's no need to be dramatic to others.

 

You are the one who used the word "dire," but I get where you're coming from. 

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I think what you are missing is that some people will not do this when offered a screen. They will scream, cry, tantrum, and fight not to leave the screen even for planned physical activity. They will say no to sports and then say it's because they want time to "relax" which is inevitably screen time.

 

I know that in your family, that screen is not the #1 attention draw. But some people will literally forsake everything else--for their whole lives--for the screen. Literally. Everything. Forever. I'm not making this up: you can see it. They are not that far off the normal curve. Why, my nephew does it. I have another nephew (actually second cousin in law...) who has serious, serious screen addiction issues. He has done some pretty bad stuff to his grandma, mom, and other grandma to get access to screens.

 

You can't just use words with him. They are a very gentle, loving, educated homeschooling family and they started out very much with a mind to self-regulation, which is sadly how he got to this point.

 

He is a great, great kid. But holy crap, the addiction. She has said to me that she knows if she could do it over she would say no phones or devices until high school, because it has become a real issue for their family.

 

I wish it were not common, but I see it all the time!

Some kids just don't get self regulating.

 

Some people have said "If you only have healthy food around why not allow kids to eat whatever, whenever they want. They'll self-regulate and learn how to judge how full they are."

 

for a long time, my dd could not self regulate with food. Until she was 15-16, she would literally eat until she threw up or gave herself a stomachache. Even healthy food, she had no sense of moderation. And it's the same with her electronics.  She just struggles with moderation.

 

So many theories about self-moderation don't take into account individual personalities. As a child, I was excellent at self moderation. Some kids are good at this. other take time to get there. It's not parenting, it's personality/genetics.

 

 

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I think what you are missing is that some people will not do this when offered a screen. They will scream, cry, tantrum, and fight not to leave the screen even for planned physical activity. They will say no to sports and then say it's because they want time to "relax" which is inevitably screen time.

 

I know that in your family, that screen is not the #1 attention draw. But some people will literally forsake everything else--for their whole lives--for the screen. Literally. Everything. Forever. I'm not making this up: you can see it. They are not that far off the normal curve. Why, my nephew does it. I have another nephew (actually second cousin in law...) who has serious, serious screen addiction issues. He has done some pretty bad stuff to his grandma, mom, and other grandma to get access to screens.

 

 

If I saw any of that type of behavior, the devices would be gone. Immediately. 

 

Convo this morning:

 

M: Sacha, come eat your breakfast.

S: [Looks up from laptop] Ok. [Runs to table and eats]

 

Convo yesterday:

 

M: Sacha, time to start school.

S: [Looks up from laptop] Ok. [Runs to table and does work without issues]

 

I'm not saying that this works for every child, but it works for us with this one. And if it ever stops working, then we will make changes. But, unless I see issues developing, I prefer to remain true to my parenting style, which is very hands-off, Also, I've read tons of research on screens/vid games, and it is pretty positive, on balance.

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