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I need parenting advice, re:tweens and teens and computer time


Janeway
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My 12 yr old in particular does not regulate himself on the computer. But really, I am asking for all the kids.

 

I am not comfortable with them wasting away on the computer. But I also feel like a complete cad getting them off. This is because they will whine and cry and say they have nothing to do. My 12 yr old is particularly obnoxious with coming to me over and over again saying there is nothing to do. He will not even ride his bike unless I "force" his older brother to go with him. His older brother has ASD and was slow to learn to ride his bike and does not like to do it at all. 

 

So for example....here is how the day went. First, I do not mind if children are on the computers before I get up. The computers automatically shut down at night and do not turn on until 7am. 12 yr old does not get up until much later than that. 14 yr old was up when I got up. He was looking up music and going back and forth between the music on the computer and then the piano. I always get online in the morning and surf my usual places..here, the news, my email, etc. But then today, I needed to finish up signing 14 yr old up for Drivers Ed. He turns 15 next week (I already changed my signature to show that). Then, 14 yr old had to finish his portion of the sign up and then he did work on the class. Around some point in the morning, youngers woke up and played iPad. Then 12 yr old got up and sat on the computer. Husband came home with groceries and 14 yr old set out to cook. 12 yr old was still on the computer, youngers were on the iPads. I did a bunch of cleaning and fed baby and took baby out to play. 12 yr old continued on his computer, youngers on their iPads. 14 yr old went out for a while and came back. He played piano a while too. No issues with 14 yr old. I also had to run donations to charity, fold laundry, tons of cleaning, and so on. I felt resentment during this time. I wonder where is the line between "they need to be kids and not do chores constantly" and "they need to take responsibility and help more." This morning, I found cereal spilled all over the floor and had 12 yr old sweep it up. That was his chore for the day. He complained about how impossible it was. I told him if he could not handle that, then he could not handle his computer. 

 

By around 4pm, so realize, hours later, I took the iPads and the computer away. I am referring to the 12 yr old and youngers. 12 yr old likes to point out that I am on the computer so he should get to also. BUT, he does not seem interested to point out when I am doing chores so he should too.

 

I have taken the advice to tell the children, instead of that they are helping me, but rather tell them that this is their house too and they need to be a part of caring for it. 

 

How do I strike a balance? I would love productive advice on reasonable expectations with children, according to age, that would strike a good balance. So, the issues at hand are computer time, chore amounts, and then the rest of the time. 

 

I am making this post, but for the most of the day, I clean, clean, pick up, sort laundry, put away laundry, scrub the floors, clean clean clean. 

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Any child that nagged because there was nothing else to do, I would cut out computer time for a week.

 

I don't really see why you feel you can't give time limits or acceptable times.  But in any case, with your situation I would not take that approach anyway.  Video games and social media have a very addictive quality that is as serious as many powerful drugs.  Some people think kids shouldn't be exposed at all while their brains are developing, but in any case, kids that are showing signs of addiction should not be using them.  Most of what I've read on this suggests that there has to be a fairly extensive period, like at least 3 months, of being cut off.​

 

There is really no reason kids need to be on the computer so they can "be kids."  There are lots of other fun things to do, and if they aren't figuring that out then they need some time made to do so.

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For 12 and younger, it was 2 hours of recreational technology a day and we're done.  No ifs, ands, or buts.  We'd get lazy after the summer and I'd re-instate in the fall and kids would whine.  By the 2 week mark, they'd find a groove. 

 

I remind my kids that a good portion of what I'm doing on the computer is work - homeschooling planning, shopping, returning e-mails (I teach classes, volunteer for a bunch of stuff, etc).  So no the rule does not apply to me.

 

For high schoolers, I'm letting my oldest self regulate more somewhat.  If he stays up late it annoys me to no end and I am making him get off at 9 pm.  He's doing more stuff like choosing to do stuff on Khan Academy, learning to program, etc so I find that less problematic. 

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I never had fixed chore amounts. My children help when I ask them, on a case by case basis. This works well.They are also responsible for their personal areas.

With respect to computer use: I tried to rephrase it, instead of limiting the time ON the computer, to make time FOR something else. Schoolwork had to get done, outdoor exercise had to get done. For their free time, I did not restrict computer use. There were a few years where DS played a bit much on the computer, but once he found a sport he fell in love with and became busy, he no longer spends a lot of time gaming.

 

DD's computer use was, to a large degree, about social connections. She talked to friends. I consider talking to friends very valuable. The computer was the medium she chose for an activity that was greatly enriching. Limiting hanging out with friends because the medium is the computer does not make sense to me.

She also wrote a lot, blogged, etc. Valuable activities.

 

So, to me, it would be important WHAT the kids do on the computer, not simply how much time they spend. DS uses the computer to educate himself for his sport by watching judo videos or reading up on sports nutrition, reseraching stuff, for connecting with friends, reading news, writing. All valuable pursuits. Some gaming, usually in a social atmosphere with friends on multiplayer games. Really nothing objectionable. It is important to me that the other activities that need to happen - school, meals, exercise, sleep - are not compromised. But besides that, the computer is a tool for many a worthwhile activity. Just because I wrote with paper and pencil does not mean writing on a keyboard is of lesser value, and just because I played long play records on a turntable does not mean listening to music digitally streaming is in any way worse.

I would not limit my child's talking to friends if those were neighbors and they sat on the porch and chatted. Why is it diferent when the friends are a distance away and he talks to them through an electronic device?

Edited by regentrude
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That's really a lot more screen time than is normal for my low-screen-time family. Are you thinking of making a big change? What are your goals?

 

For us, the kids have e-readers and something for audio-books and music that don't count as screen time... But, generally, I don't allow them to ask for screen time until various 'things of the day' are completed, and until mid-afternoon in any case. Also before they ask, they are supposed to make sure all kid-related stuff is in tidy condition.

 

After that point, they are permitted to ask me for 30 minutes of screen time, and I may say yes or no. Usually I double check the conditions (and sometimes tell them they shouldn't have asked, and why) first. Often I assign some swift household task as a quick pre-condition of me saying yes.

 

They are required to set a timer (like the microwave) and police themselves not to exceed their time.

 

Sometimes these things aren't done exactly right, and depending on the frequency and 'honesty' of such mistakes, I might overlook them, or I might warn them that a similar mistake again will result in various 'future no-s'.

 

Many days have no screen time, most have one 30-minute block per child, and a few have more than one block of screen time.

 

Watching things as a family really varies from day to day. It is done at my invitation, and occasionally we watch a whole movie or binge a show together.

 

Chores my kids do:

- one kitchen chore most mornings as a part of morning routine

- daily care of their own spaces and belongings, usually done quickly a few times per day (not leaving messes of their own making, putting away their own laundry, tidying bedrooms, etc)

- setting and clearing the table for various meals

- usually one non-kitchen chore each day (ie: change sheets, make a room ready to vacuum, work on bathroom cleaning with me, organization of something)

 

I'm not that clean myself, so I don't feel like I'm cleaning up after everybody or working excessively. I don't spend a lot of time scrubbing or cleaning intensely.

Edited by bolt.
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As for 'nothing to do' -- I usually re-lecture them about how it's normal for people to feel boredom just before their brains kick into truly playful creative mode: that I know it's unpleasant, but it won't last long, and it's important for growing healthy brains. They usually sigh, but they believe me, and their experiences affirm that it is true.

Edited by bolt.
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Here we do no screen time until school and morning stuff is done.  On a weekend, no school, but we still have morning things we do.  After that, kids can ask if they can get on the computer.  

 

Our computer is set up so they log into their own account.  Their account isn't available for use until 9 am, but of course - they usually don't get on until a minimum of 11, as we have morning stuff to do (could be errands, cleaning up, whatever).  On a school day, it's much later.  Then their account is set to 1 1/2 hours.  Once their time is up, they can ask for more time and I have to put in my password, if I agree.  If not, they're out of time.  If they don't use their time during the day, their account shuts off at 7 pm, so they wait till the next day.  Or if they're using it, and it's 7 pm, they know they'll have to turn it off.  It's non-negotiable.  

 

So, I guess I just let the computer regulate their time.  DH and I set up the parental controls, and that was that.  

 

We provide lots of options for them to do during the day - and there are neighborhood kids constantly ringing the doorbell, so there's usually something to do, but I suppose if someone were to nag, I'd list the stuff available to do or create something for the bored person.  Actually, sometimes I have a certain minecraft loving boy draw out what he hopes to do on his next computer time.  

 

Kids have unlimited access to audiobooks (via Echo and Tap), music, or e-readers.  

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During the school year we've moved to the "no screen time until school work is done" rule.  If I give a specific time, everyone rushes through, honestly.  Things have gotten much worse at our house with smartphones.  I kind of hate it.  And these are 15yo+ teens, too!  They have very poor self-discipline.  I don't even let them use their phones as a calculator because they've used that excuse to dork around on them instead.  :(  

 

We pretty much just repeat: "Responsibilities first; you can spend your free time afterwards how you like!" cheerfully and *I* follow this generally myself, too, so they see it modeled. 

 

Yeah, technology is a beast to be tamed at my house! lol

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During the school year we've moved to the "no screen time until school work is done" rule.  If I give a specific time, everyone rushes through, honestly.  Things have gotten much worse at our house with smartphones.  I kind of hate it.  And these are 15yo+ teens, too!  They have very poor self-discipline.  I don't even let them use their phones as a calculator because they've used that excuse to dork around on them instead.   :(

 

We pretty much just repeat: "Responsibilities first; you can spend your free time afterwards how you like!" cheerfully and *I* follow this generally myself, too, so they see it modeled. 

 

Yeah, technology is a beast to be tamed at my house! lol

I FEEL your pain! Only ONE of my girls has "technology issues" but wow...it's frustrating! I don't want to be the "Computer patrol cop" but honestly..her screen time has to be carefully monitored. She would easily stay on the computer for HOURS and HOURS if left to her own devices and...she gets GROUCHY when she has too much screen time.  I do have Qustodio installed on the computer and smart phone of two of my children (14 and 15 year olds). My 16 year old doesn't need it and my 12 year old is too busy doing other things to use her electronics very much. My oldest daughter is 22 and it was MUCH easier parenting before smartphones became popular. Sigh...

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We always say to the kids, "Do what you have to before you do what you want to." They have one main chore that must be done during the day (dishes, trash, living room, etc). Our kids have pretty unlimited access to their tablets, Xbox, and TV after that, but only 1 hour on the computer (the computer is the only place they have access to the internet, we locked them out on their tablets). They can earn more time on the computer by doing extra chores. During the school year, they can't play anything until school work is done.

 

They also get outside to play or take walks as a family every day. I haven't been great about limiting screen time (something about avoiding the noise and mess created by them if they aren't on their tablets), but I think we've done okay with making sure they get moving most days.

 

I think to create the balance you are looking for, you need to decide what is important for you. Chores before computer? Then you don't have to fight him to get moving. Outside activity before computer? He can't be on the computer unless he gives you a couple hours of exercise first. Use his love of the computer to your advantage :)

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My kids are 12 and 14 and we have a 2 hour time limit of total screen time per day (TV, iPod, computer, video game), weekends only, no carryover time, and it is strictly enforced.  It's been this way *forever* and I can not see myself changing this any time soon.  DD could probably regulate herself decently, but DS can not, and it's easier for me to continue this blanket policy.  Once you get into a routine and everyone's expectations are adjusted as to screen time, it really isn't even an issue after a while, but it is tough to enforce in the beginning, I am sure.  The kids can think of nothing to do because the screen time has probably sapped their imagination and creativity, and IMO, is strong indicator of the need for less computer time, not more.  You could tell them that.  If assigned chores are not done, weekend screen time is taken away.  When my kids point out that I am on the computer everyday, I tell them that I am the household dictator and I can do stuff like that.  :)  Seriously, though, I would not get into justifying your own computer use; you are an adult and entitled to use your judgment regarding that and they are children and are not entitled to use their judgment about that.  Computer time for schoolwork is not included in the time obviously.  Change the Wi-Fi password, set your limits, and enforce them.  The kids will adjust. 

Edited by reefgazer
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My kids had little screen time until they were tweens. DD has had an iPod since she was 13 and an iPhone since last Christmas. She wastes hours on it. I've given her plenty of time to self regulate, which she does not, so now that school is back in session she will have it in very limited quantities during the week, maybe a bit more on weekends. DS has none of those things but does like computer games. He has addictive tendencies with them, so he is limited to an hour and a half daily. Now that school is back in session he will only be allowed time on the weekends. I don't count TV as they don't watch it much, and I don't mind it as much. The more time my kids spend in front of a computer or phone screen the less they find to do off the screens. And yes, I get the I'm bored from ds all.the.time. When they are off screens for an extended period of time their creativity blossoms again, they get along better, and find things to do. I strongly dislike them being in front of a screen for any great length of time. It's just my pet peeve. Dh and I don't like having to deal with any of it and don't know if other parents have as much trouble as we do or resent it as much either.

Edited by whitestavern
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The rule for getting computer time at our house is you have to earn it. For the last while you earn it by doing French. If you make your Duolingo tree (free program for learning French) gold - you get 30 minutes. If you do a new lesson you get 10 minutes. This has them practicing and reviewing French all the time.

 

If you ever use your computer time your brother also gets to play on the computer. So they encourage each other to earn computer time. This works well for them because they get along really well.

 

ETA: you can also earn computer time by doing extra chores. Today they worked hard on cleaning up/out the attic.

Edited by Julie Smith
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We limit screen time by practical measures: we don't own cell phones, tablets, e-readers, a tv, gaming systems, leap pads, etc.  We have two desktops that we use for the business  so they are not free often.  Those are the only electronics in the house.   

 

If they start to get obnoxious about the computers, we all take a break for a week (me included) for everything except work/online classes.

 

I sort of treat it like cookies; some of us (ahem, me) have a cookie addiction.  If there are cookies in the house, I will eat cookies and only cookies until they are gone.  One or two of the kids are similar.

 

So I never buy more cookies than we as a family can eat in a day.  We have some kids with potential screen addiction; the best way to regulate it for us is to just limit the practical availability.

 

I had three tablets at once a couple of years ago and realized that each older kid (of at least age 3) was sitting in a dark closet playing games or watching videos on a tablet.  Gave them all away that week.  My mom brought one of them with her when she visited for the summer and DD4 spent all summer downstairs using it.  Hours and hours a day, at least 5-8.  I thought I was waiting her out and she would get tired of it if I let her saturate, but after 3 months she had waited me out.  Next summer I'll have to tell mom to keep the tablet completely hidden.

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We don't have any actual rules beyond "Do as your told, when your told, or devices will be confiscated."  

 

My downfall comes when I'm not clear about what needs to be done when.  So, if I say "DS1, take the garbage and recycling out today, DD1, clean the bathroom today, DD2, clean the kitchen today, DS2, clean up the outside toys today, DS3, clean up your room today," I'm usually setting myself up to scream my head off at 8pm because nothing's done, while they try to plead their case on the basis that the day isn't over.

 

"Have these things done before I get back from the grocery store or turn in all devices" is more effective almost all of the time.  (The youngest two tend to need more immediate action and response.)

 

What I'm getting from your post (and I could be wrong) is that you want them to do more, but you don't mention anything about setting and communicating expectations.  The 12yo's chore for the day seemed to be on the fly.  It's hard to meet expectations when you don't know what they are.  I'm not opposed to little things that come up throughout the day, but I could see them wondering why Mom's so exasperated that they're not doing things she hasn't asked them to do.  Kids are blind to what needs to be done!  (Seriously.  Mine could step in jelly 5 times and not think to clean it up without being directly told.)

 

Make a chore list.  Put times on it if they need that structure.  Include outdoor time if you think it's needed, even if they just sit their rears on the front porch.  LET THEM KNOW what you want them to do.

 

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By around 4pm, so realize, hours later, I took the iPads and the computer away. I am referring to the 12 yr old and youngers. 12 yr old likes to point out that I am on the computer so he should get to also. BUT, he does not seem interested to point out when I am doing chores so he should too.

 

I have taken the advice to tell the children, instead of that they are helping me, but rather tell them that this is their house too and they need to be a part of caring for it. 

 

How do I strike a balance? I would love productive advice on reasonable expectations with children, according to age, that would strike a good balance. So, the issues at hand are computer time, chore amounts, and then the rest of the time. 

 

I am making this post, but for the most of the day, I clean, clean, pick up, sort laundry, put away laundry, scrub the floors, clean clean clean. 

 

 

i hesitated to respond because we don't really regulate screen time, but the bolded would be dealt with.  We don't allow kids to talk rudely to us.   I would point out in no uncertain terms that if that is the case and he feels he needs to do what adults do he can certainly help me fix meals, clean, change the baby,  and maybe he would also like to use his allowance to help me pay the bills for the things he is enjoying, like my food, electricity, a bed to sleep on, etc......

 

We haven't limited screen time because it hasn't been a huge issue in our home.  I did use it as punishment when they were younger and would take it away, but it wasn't due to issues on the actual device, it was just for other things, LIKE being disrespectful.

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We set up the rule of 20 minutes of screen time every 4 hours, not including school work or special projects.  Of course, we also helped think of things to do the rest of the time!  My kids are all in their 20's now, and they thank us for forcing them to do other things and help set up good habits.  

 

However, we also had it easier when they were younger.  We had one main computer in the living room, and no one had smart phones or iPads yet.  

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children who whine about having nothing to do have the option of ME finding something for them to do.  (they don't like what I suggest.  too  bad, so sad.)

 

I know a mom who had a list of short household chores available for kids who were bored. . . .

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We're another family that has the "if you complain about having nothing to do or that you're bored, Mom will find you something to do and you probably won't like what she suggests" rule.  Usually it's some extra chore.  They still whine about that every now and again, but it's definitely cut down on that particular complaint.

 

When it come to screen time - the rule at the house is that your chores need to be finished, your schoolwork needs to be finished, your soccer homework needs to be finished, and you have to have your one hour of physical activity.  After that, you are welcome to do something on the iPad or computer or watch TV.  Sometimes there are shows on TV that we watch together and those are separate from their own personal screentime.  During the weekend they tend to get more, but that's just because we're so busy during the week.  If we're sitting at one child's soccer practice, the other children may get more screentime and they may not.  Depends on how many children there are at the playground during practice and that's more their choice than mine.

 

Ds (11y) has some impulse control issues in general.  He'd be on the computer all the time if he could and we would often find him up at wee hours in the morning watching Minecraft YouTube videos.  He'd also play Minecraft for hours if I let him.  When he was able to do that, we weren't really thrilled with his behavior.  So, as much as I hate to regulate his access to screentime, I felt like he wasn't able to do so on his own in a healthy way right now.  So we've scaffolded his regulation until he can better regulate it himself.  I'd have liked it if he could have done this himself because I don't want to be that parent.  And yet...he's doing so much better in all areas of life with those supports in place.

 

Ds still has free access to the iPads and he has a friend he met at a class that lives in another city that he texts with.  I did block YouTube on the iPads the kids have access to just because it removes the temptation to stay up and not get sleep.  I also set-up a new user on the computer that has time limited access (both in amount of time and hours available) that also blocks access to the Minecraft servers because I didn't want ds playing the first person shooter game on Mineplex he was so fond of.  The big exception to ds and Minecraft servers is that he can access the servers when he's at the library, but that's because it's a social thing with real life kids and one of the few ways ds gets that sort of social opportunity.

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Some days we are all lazy bums and lay around with our gadgets. Other days are extremely busy with school, chores, outside activities, and such. I don't necessarily think a Saturday filled with screen time is a bad thing, as long as the rest of the week is balanced.

Maybe you could make a journal of all the kids do during the week and then you could sit down and ponder how much time they are really getting, verses how much time you want them to have.

 

One rule I do have, is that on a normal day, there is no gaming in the mornings. Tv and gaming sets my kids in a bad mood for the day. I usually save that stuff for the afternoon.

 

Maybe you could give them chores to do on Saturday mornings. You could also have them get PE time in, literature reading time, and maybe an art project.

Edited by Peacefulisle
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I'm in the no limits camp.  We have never given our kids time limits on TV, computer, gaming, or any other gadgets (I did monitor certain content, though).  Self-regulation happened naturally over time and there has never been an issue.  My girls are happy, productive adults who probably spend less than 5% of their days on the computer or watching tv.  Ds (15) is on the computer often, but I see it as only beneficial (for so many evident reasons).  He also gets his schoolwork done, does the dishes and cleans his room, takes care of his 3 bearded dragons, chameleon, and ball python, goes to Muay Thai classes, and just landed his first job!! (3 days a week/7am-3pm doing grunt work for a precious metal refinery. He sets his alarm and gets up at 6am no problem). 

 

I think if it gets to a point where the kids want to do absolutely nothing else, then it's a problem.  But if their schoolwork and chores get done, then I say leave them to it.

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Maybe it would help you to separate the screen limit question from the chore management question.

 

We are another no-limits family, so long as schoolwork, etc. is done.  That said, 7th grade was a challenge for one ds, who has medical issues impacting learning, attention, exec function; his schoolwork is almost entirely on the computer but he'd procrastinate the unpleasant tasks by playing games or watching videos.  (As we are attempting to address these medical issues, so far in 8th grade he's much more disciplined, e.g. I don't have to sit there all evening keeping him on task.)

 

These days, they don't have trouble setting them down when there is something else to do, even if that something is just me saying, ok it's time to go outside.  At this point, they don't have the feeling of yearning for that which is in short supply, if that makes any sense.  A few years ago, when they were all sharing one laptop and turn-taking, there were times it would be hard to get them off.

 

All that aside, once my dd's old middle school principal told me that 7th grade was often a hard year for boys, and her prediction seems to have been correct for mine.

Edited by wapiti
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I am not sure our expectations would be considered "reasonable" for many, but I'll briefly describe how things work for us.

 

We haven't had the need to set time regulations for computer/gadgets time. We are not much of a technology family. We have a computer, a small tablet, a Wii, a PlayStation...so, we have stuff, but it doesn't mean that because it's there we have to use it constantly.

 

Kids (8, 10 and 12) do use gadgets, but in so much moderation that it's just not an issue.

 

School work, playing outside, helping around the house, reading, playing piano, extracurricular activities...all those usually come first than computer or tablet time.

 

Just focusing on what you described as how the day went with your 12yr old...that just wouldn't fly for us. No reason why he couldn't help with the younger ones, putting groceries away, helping with laundry...so many things he could have done instead of wasting the day away on the computer. But I'm not sure you asked him?

 

Another "if you can't find anything to do, here's a list to chose from" type of mom. List could include dusting, cleaning baseboards etc.

 

Kids are SO capable of many, many things around the house. I can't totally tell from your post, but I get the impression he's not helping a whole lot. But, I'm not sure you have asked him to help. At that age he can easily dust, clean bathrooms, tidy up, help with laundry, do dishes, help with meal prep etc. I'm all for fun and free time, which our kids get plenty of...but I am also all for them helping around, not everything should be on the parents' shoulders.

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Idk about adult computer use. Sometimes I think it's good to get one's own house in order before nagging the kids. Anyway, that's what works best for us....if I moderate my own usage, the kids seem to follow. Partly because I am more available to them. And they like company, and offers of other stuff to do.

 

Yeah, I think this is true.  But OTOH, the rules for adults don't need to be the same as for kids, and different ages of kids might need different rules too, tha just isn't an argument I would accept.

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We have been gamers since the first Commodore 64, or was it 16, came out. DH works from home and is on a computer 10 hours a day. I am hopelessly addicted to a multitude of chat sites and online games. At my job, I am also in front of a computer half the time. Our kids are the same screen junkies and have been since birth. DD played her first multiplayer game at age 6 mos.

 

Both my kids became readers at age 3, not because they are geniuses. They are average kids who wanted to communicate in the gaming world. DS was programming in BASIC by age 3, very simplistic, mind you, but so he could play more games. DS36 has become an ER physician. He is married to a screen junkie and has two adorable screen junkie boys. DD16 opened her own business at age 14 playing online video games. She makes roughly 6 times what the local McDonald's pays teens.

 

I cannot tell you the last time I actually spoke with a friend on the phone. Everything is texts or group chats. Instant Messenger has become the most popular means of communication for most who I know. I do not even have a friend anymore who does not travel with a smart phone and IPad in her purse. And, for reasons of convenience and "safety", our kids do the same.

 

Contrary to popular belief, we gamers are not fat or couch potatoes, either. DD16 dances about 20 hours a week and even my son still plays soccer, just now on an adult recreation team. My ancient self scoots down the sidewalk for 3 miles a day. DH rides his bike up to the grocery store daily. We still all have an IPad glued to our hands.

 

I am in the midst of this crazy brag-a-thon to show that screen time is not necessarily a bad thing. It is the way of our present culture. Rather than limiting screen time per se, parents can monitor activities. Obviously, porn surfing is bad. But, searching for music and then recreating it on the piano, like your child does, is good. Playing a mindless game, like Angry Birds for 10 hours straight is bad. But, playing a strategy game while chatting with multiple players from all over the world can be good. Kids doing great things to earn money to buy more equipment or give to charity is good. In other words, please evaluate the activity, not the screen.

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As far as chores go and what the kids should be doing, I once heard a wise mother of many say that she didn't do any chores that her children were capable of doing. Basically, you start with the youngest and assign them the chores that they can do and then the next youngest and so on. Now the thing is you can't just tell the kids to "go do this". It all requires training and supervision (So much so that once I didn't have a bunch of littles anymore, I no longer required chores...much easier to just do it all myself.) When my kids did do chores we had a scheduled chore time every morning and everyone did chores at that time. It took about an hour. You might find Manager's Of Their Chores a useful resource.

 

Susan in TX

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We have been gamers since the first Commodore 64, or was it 16, came out. DH works from home and is on a computer 10 hours a day. I am hopelessly addicted to a multitude of chat sites and online games. At my job, I am also in front of a computer half the time. Our kids are the same screen junkies and have been since birth. DD played her first multiplayer game at age 6 mos.

 

Both my kids became readers at age 3, not because they are geniuses. They are average kids who wanted to communicate in the gaming world. DS was programming in BASIC by age 3, very simplistic, mind you, but so he could play more games. DS36 has become an ER physician. He is married to a screen junkie and has two adorable screen junkie boys. DD16 opened her own business at age 14 playing online video games. She makes roughly 6 times what the local McDonald's pays teens.

 

I cannot tell you the last time I actually spoke with a friend on the phone. Everything is texts or group chats. Instant Messenger has become the most popular means of communication for most who I know. I do not even have a friend anymore who does not travel with a smart phone and IPad in her purse. And, for reasons of convenience and "safety", our kids do the same.

 

Contrary to popular belief, we gamers are not fat or couch potatoes, either. DD16 dances about 20 hours a week and even my son still plays soccer, just now on an adult recreation team. My ancient self scoots down the sidewalk for 3 miles a day. DH rides his bike up to the grocery store daily. We still all have an IPad glued to our hands.

 

I am in the midst of this crazy brag-a-thon to show that screen time is not necessarily a bad thing. It is the way of our present culture. Rather than limiting screen time per se, parents can monitor activities. Obviously, porn surfing is bad. But, searching for music and then recreating it on the piano, like your child does, is good. Playing a mindless game, like Angry Birds for 10 hours straight is bad. But, playing a strategy game while chatting with multiple players from all over the world can be good. Kids doing great things to earn money to buy more equipment or give to charity is good. In other words, please evaluate the activity, not the screen.

Not going to disagree with most of your post but--average children do not teach themselves to read at age 3, no matter how motivated. I'm not believing that unless you show me IQ tests with scores right around the 100 mark.

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