Screen time is an issue for most deliberate mothers. How much time do your children spend in front of a TV, computer, tablet, or phone? Do you struggle to know how much is too much?
In this popular episode from our archives, April and Saren discuss their own experiences with screen time growing up and what they struggle with concerning screen time now that they’re moms. They offer suggestions to help you create a screen time policy that can really work for your family as you help your children understand that “harmless” enjoyment of screen time can start to become “harmful” as it keeps them away from other worthy pursuits. April and Saren also offer specific ideas for fun and meaningful alternatives to screen time for children.
After enjoying the radio show, you may want to check out this little video about a simple and effective screen-time tracking system that one mom from our community devised for her preschooler: Tackling Screen Time Video and Printable Chart
Post to help you know exactly how to talk to your children about this issue: The Screen Time Dialogue
Program April talks about at the end of the show: Family Systems eCourse
* Image courtesy of Tina Phillips at freedigitalphotos.net
Music from Creations by Michael R. Hicks.
My husband installed a program on our “kid computer” that automatically logs them out after 1 hour (or whatever we set it to). It has been wonderful because I’m no longer that bad guy telling them to get off and they know it’s time to do something else when it happens.
Saren Eyre Loosli says
Great idea, Katie! Would you mind sharing the name of this program? I’d like to get it on our computer – for my kids and for myself!
It’s pretty technical and I don’t totally understand it, but here’s what he did: He googled “Windows XP automatic logoff” (you can google whatever operating system you’re using) and found a forum on majorgeeks.com. They told him to do this:
“If you were to copy this text into notepad:
option explicit dim o_shell set o_shell = WScript.CreateObject (“WScript.Shell”) WScript.Sleep 3600000 o_shell.run (“shutdown -s”) Wscript.Quit()
and save as filename.vbs, you would have a logon script that would automatically shut down the computer after 1 hour. To set this as a logon script, please do the following:
1. Hit windows key + r (or click start –> run)
2. Type ‘gpedit.msc’ (without the quotes)
3. Press enter (or click ok)
4. Under ‘User Configuration’ expand ‘Windows Settings’
5. Select ‘Scripts (logon/logoff)
6. Right-click ‘Logon’ in the right hand pane, and select ‘Properties’
7. Press the ‘Add’ button
From there, navigate to your newly created script, and PRESTO! You have a logon script that waits an hour, and then shuts down the computer after giving the user a 30 second warning. There are more options available to you, I recommend that you type ‘shutdown /?’ at a command prompt for more details.”
I know that’s pretty complicated but maybe you can ask someone to help if you’re not a computer genius ;-). It’s actually a good thing that it’s complicated because then our smart kids can’t easily turn it off. Hope this helps!
It’s pretty technical and I don’t totally understand it, but here’s what he did: He googled “Windows XP automatic logoff” (you can google whatever operating system you’re using) and found a forum on majorgeeks.com. They told him to type in some code and save it in a notepad document, then showed him how to run it. Sorry it’s so complicated, but maybe you can ask someone for help if you’re not a computer genius ;-). It’s actually a good thing that it’s complicated because then our smart kids can’t easily turn it off. Hope this helps! We’ve loved it.
Curly head says
I would be interested too…
Something that we use that works well in our family is Media Marbles. We have 6 marbles for each child that represents a 1/2 hr a piece. 2 of the marbles are a different color and can only be used for “educational media.” At the end of the week, each marble remaining is turned in for $ (we started at 10 cents and have moved up to a quarter). It has taken a huge burden off of my shoulders — I don’t have to decide in the moment (it’s so tempting when they are begging and pestering to say yes or to have to come up with a reason why not) and they are learning to balance the time they have. Our son that was ALWAYS pleading to play computer or video games is now telling me that he is going to read a book instead so that he’ll have some marbles left for Saturday. It’s been amazing!
April Perry says
Media Marbles are a fantastic idea. Thanks so much!
Saren Eyre Loosli says
What a great idea, Brooke!
This is surely a timely topic. Just yesterday I received a little machine I ordered that I plug our wii into and then plug the tv into it as well. It works like an arcade game. It came with tokens that my kids earn by doing their jobs. Each token allows 30 minutes of play.
So far, so good!
The machine is the bad guy that shuts the machine off and I’m the nice lady who gives out the tokens!
April Perry says
This sounds AMAZING. Can you give us a link to where we can get one?
Sure! Its called the Time Machine. Got it from Amazon.
Just my thoughts after 1 day: AWESOME!! There were no battles to shut it off, no crying when the machine shut off, they just found other things to do and started building a HUGE Lego house. Best $15 I ever spent!
April Perry says
Thanks so much! I’m excited to check it out. Sounds like something we need on our Amazon store.
As I listened to this again this morning the part where you ask ‘what do you choose to do when you have free time?’ caught my attention.
The phrase we use in our house to get us to think about that is ‘What is your default?’
I want my kids to set a new default if the only thing they can think of doing involves a screen. Asking them about it keeps it in mind.
April Perry says
I love that question. Thanks so much Kassie!
The Power of Moms is POWERFUL!
My 12 year old daughter heard me listening to this episode. She got on the libraries web site during your conversation and reserved the Plug In Drug book you mentioned. She quoted from it at dinner last night and she is seeing how kids at school act and talk like tv characters. She had to do a survey and graph the results for math. She choose to graph the number of tv/video game hours kids had in a week. She was so excited to come home and tell me that the smartest boy in class only gets 2 hours of tv a week. Thank you for the insight you gave me as a parent, but even more thank you for helping shape how my daughter views screen time.
Here is a quote my daughter had on her wall from a report she did on Abigail Adams. She added the last word herself.
Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people & tv
April Perry says
Wow, what a daughter you have! I would love for her to get to know Alia. Thanks for sharing!!
I am so glad to hear that you two struggle with knowing how to deal with screen time! It eases my mind 🙂 My boys are drawn to screens like moths to a flame! I am looking forward to this week to “detox” (it starts today after school). I feel like it’s out of control now though so we need to go cold turkey for a few days and set new guidelines and policies.
In the past we have done no screens for the school days and then Mom got lazy 🙂 We have had them earn screen time by the amount of time they read. We have had time limits etc.
I love that phrase, “moths to a flame” – my boys are just the same! We tried timers on the TV but they worked out how to disarm them. Then we simply instigated a media budget. They had, say, 2 hours a day screen time and could divide that how they chose, but once it was gone, it was gone.
Just noticed I’m the only one here with a ‘silly’ user name. Thought we had to be ‘anonymous’ or disguised! 🙂 Forget that. My name’s Jackie!
Cheryl Cardall says
Happysnail, I kind of like the silly name 🙂 I also like your media budget idea! We are instigating some new guidelines for screen time after our no screens week and I really like this one!
We use timesupkidz (you can google it for purchase) to limit computer time, it has made a huge difference. I was sold after the 30 day trial. Now I’m not the bad guy. I have to be the bad guy enough! I think finding the right balance with technology for our kids, and with our kids is one of our generation’s challenges.
Thanks for the great podcast, and for keeping it real.
How do you decide on a time? We’re a very “tech” family. My husband is in IT and I used to be tech support a long time ago. We love beta testing new things and making tech work for us. (My phone is my brain. Seriously, Google runs my life! 😉
Do you use the same times for different kids? I’m leaning toward birthrights, etc and giving older kids more time, younger kids less.
I’m struggling with the school-issued devices that are becoming increasingly more common. I can’t believe they gave my 3rd grader an iPad– and told them it’s their own to keep! Next year my 5th grader is getting a fully-loaded internet-capable laptop. Geez.