Screen Time. For this generation of kids and us, the parents, concerns about how much time children spend using “screens” like TV and tablets (and cell phones and Ipods and YouTube and XBoxes and…) ranks up there in the Top Ten Things Parents Have to Think About Every Day, right along with are they eating enough vegetables and are they going to get hurt doing _____. Keeping on top of it all is exhausting, isn’t it? How much TV/video game/computer time is too much? How do I get the kids to adhere to whatever rules I set without constantly monitoring or nagging?
I had noticed last summer that it was very easy for the kids to get sucked into the screens first thing in the morning and have a hard time redirecting themselves afterward. I would be in the garage working and when I would take a break at 9 or 10AM I would go inside to find them both still in pjs glued to the tablet and generally the little guy hadn’t even fed himself breakfast yet. (I know – some of your kids sleep until then so it doesn’t sound like a big deal. We are a house of early risers and generally my kids wake up on their own by 7:00) Not good.
Last fall I ran across a brilliant idea (found here) and we’ve been using it fairly regularly ever since. Instead of setting limits on screen time, this mom set up a list of things the kids need to do BEFORE they spend any time on the computer or TV and once those things are done they are free to spend as much time as they want with the screens. The beauty of the plan is that you can customize your lists and change them as needed so that a good chunk of the day is spent doing the items on the list if you so desire. By putting things on the list that are likely to get the child involved in other activities (outside play, something artsy or creative, etc) chances are they will get wrapped up in those activities and be less likely to spend as much time on the screens anyway. Plus the list can serve as a reminder for all those things kids love to forget like brushing their teeth and feeding the dog. I no longer have to nag them, I just have to ask what is left on their list.
With summer now in full swing here, along with new routines and responsibilities, we all sat down to give our Before Screens Lists a little update. Kaitlyn’s list now looks like this (and Tyler’s list is very similar):
|Breakfast: includes putting dishes in dishwasher, putting away food, wiping down counter/table where you ate – by 8:30AM|
|Get Dressed: includes deodorant, doing hair|
|Brush Teeth: with timer, rinse sink afterward and make sure towels are hanging up nicely|
|Unload Dishwasher (Tues, Thurs, Sat)|
|Active: 60 Minutes|
|Reading: 30 Minutes|
|Creative/Productive (Play): 1 ½ hour|
|Time Outside – at least 30 min|
|Play with Bambi|
|Straighten up Bedroom|
|Clean Up Playroom|
|Dinner: includes putting dishes in dishwasher, helping to clear table and put away food|
|Take out Garbage|
|Feed and water Bambi|
|Pack swim bag (as needed)|
|Before Bed: by 8:30 PM
-shower (start by 8:00)
|Bedtime: 9:00 PM|
Notice the times on some of the spaces? I hate to nag and I also hate to have to watch the clock when I know the kids are perfectly capable of doing so themselves. So I made sure to note what time I wanted them dressed in the morning or how soon to start showers at night so they could go to bed on time.
My kids are 11 and 8 so they need the specific details and reminders to brush their teeth, shower, etc. My hope with the list is that the kids will start to form their own habits and routines so that I no longer have to be “on top of them” quite so much. That as soon as they are finished eating they automatically put their dishes in the dish washer or that their morning doesn’t feel complete without getting dressed and brushing their teeth. As a parent I am trying to teach them to be self-reliant and self-directed. To learn how to prioritize their time and activities and recognize that spending a little time with the daily chores and personal maintenance is not only easy but useful. To start to recognize that we all have certain responsibilities that need to be attended to and it’s easier to do so in a few minutes a day than to procrastinate and have to deal with the consequences later. To learn that we all need to figure out how to balance our lives between “work,” play, creative time, learning time, and time spent zoning out because all of those activities have their place.
Once we had the list arranged to everyone’s approval (didn’t take long because we already had a good base and I had saved it in the computer) I printed them out and put them in page protectors. This allows the kids to mark off everything as they do them with dry erase markers (another incentive – my kids love dry erase markers!) then we can just wipe it all off and start again next week instead of having to print multiple copies of the list. Then I mounted them inside a cabinet where they are easily accessible but out of sight.
As I have spent a little more time noticing how and when we use screens the past week one thing has become glaringly obvious to me – I am just as attached to those screens as the kids are!
What? No gasps of surprise?! LOL Yeah, I’m not either. I think a lot of us know that we as adults rely just as heavily on technology as our kids do. Have a few minutes in the morning and what do I do? Check my email. Bored standing in line at the grocery store or waiting for our food in a restaurant? Pull out the phone to see what’s happening on Facebook or Instagram. Or I’m on the computer blogging, looking up ideas on Pinterest, editing photos, or checking new orders in the Etsy shop, or hey let’s see if it’s my turn on Words with Friends, or…
I’m thinking maybe I need a Before Screens list myself! 😉
I’m interested: What would you put on your No Screens List?