So we turned that corner. The one with video games, TVs, kindles, iPhones, iPads and computers all trying to get my 5 year olds attention at the same time. Now I’m not going to pretend in the slightest we’re a screen free home. We’re independent business owners, self employed and with that comes the hustle. The need to be connected to make sure you don’t miss the next big opportunity. But I want my kids to grow up, not out. So I try to keep the screen hidden as best I can. But this winter was rough and we slipped into “fine just take it…” Here’s how we’re working our way back.
According the the most recent study kids under 18 months shouldn’t be on technology at all and under 2yrs they are just happy to be playing with you. 5 and over is where it gets tricky. There’s no one size fits all for this. But mainly with too much technology kids can train their young brain to be over stimulated and might not be able to turn off the need for stimulation. This could result in them having issues focusing in school or sleep issues. So fun I know. You can read more about the latest study here. So what’s a stressed out parent to due when you’re out numbered and need to get dinner on the table?
1st: Breathe! Remember you are in charge. You pay the bills and you bought the TV. If you are serious about removing technology from the equation, remember you are holding the remote in your hand.
2nd: Set expectations. I realized just walking in a shutting off the TV would result in a huge melt down and stomping and, well it wasn’t pretty. But if I went in saying “you can have one show then we’re turning the TV off for the day.” I had a totally different child on my hands. Kids are honest, most of the time, and will respond to the structure of limits. Say what they can have before you start anything. 1 show, 1 movie whatever you need it to be then done. If you would like to learn more about setting up a family media plan check out HealthyChildren.org They will help you set up your own media plan. I also recommend checking Common Sense Media to see how different apps and other media are rated. Use your best judgment and if nothing else just get them outside to play.
3rd: Make them understand it’s a privilege not a right. This is the thick of it for us. At 5 it’s hard to explain to kids that things don’t just happen. We’re working against Santa and the Easter Bunny, omnipotent beings that produce a childs wish at will. Yeah, thanks for that… So we’re working with Bear to figure out how he can earn screen time. And me being me I came up with the following:
Media Bank: The idea is to teach your child how to earn and save time for video games or extra shows.
I took a few wooden circles and drew 5’s on them. When Bear wants some extra time I let him ask for it. Then I tell him he can earn the time by doing a chore or two around the house. Sometimes it’s school related like practicing his letters or numbers for 15 min to earn 15 min. Sometimes it’s something small like making his bed to earn 5 min or doing the dishes to earn 10 min. It can vary but I do have a list we work from. After the task is complete he can spend his minutes right a way or save them up. The catch is he can only spend 30 minutes a day. My kid’s no fool. And neither am I. I have chores I expect him to do with no rewards. He has to clean up his clothes, clear his plate and help when asked. Extra work earns extra time.
Our next step is to weed out TV time at meal time and right before bed. I know I’m a monster. 😉
Just remember there is no right way. There’s only the way that works for your family.