If you have young children in the house, chances are you have video games, too. And if you have video games, it’s possible you’ve struggled like my husband and I have, asking…what are appropriate screen time rules?
Much of the material I’ve read agrees that no more than two hours screen time a day is appropriate for young minds. Beyond this, research says, attention problems are likely to come into play. Having a ADHD in the house, this gets my attention. Knowing most children with autism are especially enticed by screen time, I wanted some info specific to the twins. The most convincing statement I read was from an awesome autism book I’m reading (look for the full book review in April!) in regard to electronic toys, televisions, or computers:
…it is essential to understand that these items help your child to be autistic...no matter how educational a video, toy, or computer program is, it can never teach your child to interact and be social.
I was not shocked when I read that and I’ll be really honest here…I nearly hate video games. I don’t play them myself (except for my 90’s obsession with Dr. Mario and Tetris) and I don’t understand them. I’m not a big TV watcher either and I tend to take on a very…arrogant…attitude in relation to screen time…
I have better things to do and so should you.
Ouch, to my video-game loving family.
I have been forced this past year to step down off my pedestal of perfection (please note the seething sarcasm) and admit something important: the males in my house – including the oldest one – love video games. They do. They truly enjoy them just like I truly enjoy sewing. It helps them wind down. My husband essentially makes video games for a living at his job. I can foresee a future similar to his in one of our twins already; he’s a computer genius by an 8-year-old’s standards.
The other acceptance I had to come to terms with is that video games are not all mind-numbing. While nothing competes with human interaction, I had to admit these games were challenging their minds and most of the time encouraging them to play and work together for common goals.
So what have I done with all of this information? Where lies the balance?
Video Game Vouchers.
For the most part, these have put a hault on nagging, fighting, jello-brain, and obsessing when it comes to video games.
Here’s how it works…
- The vouchers are passed out on Saturday morning. I suggest putting them somewhere special like in a jar on top of their workboxes so they can keep up with them. If I find a voucher laying around, I take it.
- Vouchers can be used Saturday after breakfast – Sunday before dinner.
- They get six vouchers, worth 20 minutes each. (Here’s our golden 2 hours, broken up).
- Each boy is in charge of his own timer – that means he must set the timer at the beginning of his turn. Here’s the timer we use and LOVE.
- Vouchers can be lost for not pausing OR asking to complete a goal when your timer goes off.
- Vouchers cannot be earned.
Print your video game vouchers now!
Other Screen Time
You may be wondering about the rest of screen time. Here’s how it works in the Rinna house…
- After workboxes and chores are done, they earn 15 minutes screen time a day (Mon-Fri). This time can only be used on the ipad or pre-approved websites like Lego.com, PBSkids.org and NickJr.com.
- They can earn an additional 15 minutes screen time after they pack their lunch for school and do their nightly clean up (Mon-Thurs)
- They can also earn an additional 10 minutes screen time for doing an extra workbox after all this is done (we almost never have time for this during the week with school, sports, and keeping 3 boys on task!)
- We don’t have cable
- Movies/shows are only watched on Friday and Saturday usually as a family movie night and really don’t count in our screen time equation.
Now these are general rules – I am a normal mom that cripples under life’s pressure and sometimes allows more shows than I should especially on a snow day (yes, we have actually had a few in Alabama!) or when family is in town. The above is our “picture perfect” schedule.
A Note on Screen time for Adults
Lest I finish this post without confessing the most convicting part of this attitude of mine…the hours I spend facing a screen, myself.
But I’m working…
It’s still technically screen time.
I try to be the example by showing my kids – especially my inquisitive toddler – that screens are NOT as cool as people.
How I (try) to accomplish this:
- I have set work hours, mostly outside of my time with them.
- I try to spend at least 15 minutes quality time with each child one-on-one before I start work
- When I’m feeling a particular child clamoring for my attention and frequently interrupting, I try to set aside what I’m doing to focus on them for a few minutes uninterrupted.
No matter how digital our world gets, nothing will ever surpass our children’s need for US in their life.