Do you set specific “screen time” limits for your kids? Not me.

Do you set specific “screen time” (TV, computer, video games, iPads/Pods/Touches) limits for your kids? One hour per day? Two hours per day? Only on weekends? I don’t, and it has worked well for my three kids to date.

Now before you think I let my kids snuggle up to the TV or Wii and settle in for 6 hours at a time, let me clarify what I mean. I have never set screen time-specific days, times, or hours, or established a screen time as a reward system for my  kids. In our family, once the kids have completed everything that needs to be done for that day or time (homework, chores, etc.), my kids are allowed to entertain themselves without specific time limits. However, I definitely step in if necessary.  During exam week, there is no screen time allowed at all. I will often use no screen time as a punishment (ouch). If it’s a beautiful summer day, I tell them to go outside. If they have been watching TV for what seems like all day, I turn it off. If it’s been eerily quiet, I realize my son has been on the computer for quite a while, and I tell him it’s time for another activity. The interesting part of this arrangement is that they never complain when I do step in and turn off the TV, computer, video games, etc. They know it’s been long enough too.

I have many friends and family members who have various rules for screen time in their homes (this actually seems to be the norm), ranging from 1 hour per day, to video games allowed only on the weekend, to a points system with screen time rewards, to no TVs in the house at all (help). What I have found with a lot of these kids is that they are borderline obsessed with TV, computer games, etc. When they come over they are so mesmerized by the TV that they can’t do anything else, to the point that my kids pull me aside – “Mom, all Billy wants to do is watch TV – help.” Our cousins’ daughter, who has some pretty strict screen time rules, actually tried to smuggle an IPad to school (she’s 9 and tried to shove it in her pants. Mom found out during the morning hug goodbye – busted).

My kids love their TV, but so do I. They are no worse for the wear. They don’t play video games for 7 hours in a row. They choose to communicate with friends on the phone or in person, not via email or text, and in fact do not have email, Facebook or Instagram accounts – all by their own choice. They are very active, both in organized sports/activities, and during down time, they usually choose to play outside with friends or indoor games over the video variety. They typically choose board games over video. My kids do not have cell phones (they are 9, 10 and 12) but they do have I-Touches, they only have access to a family computer in our living room and there are no TVs in their bedrooms. They are pretty well adjusted, yet given a lot of freedom. I think by establishing rigid rules about screen time (or food for that matter -that’s a future blog), it only makes it that more attractive to kids.

Please share the screen time rules in your house here. Is it working?

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