How do you deal with screen time at your house? Do you set limits or allow your children unlimited time on screens? Here are some great ways to find a balance, ways to limit “unlimited” screen time.
I have conversations all the time with my friends about our kids and the amount of time they spend on screens, and how to deal with it. Let’s face it, technology is here to stay and balancing on and off screen time is something moms are going to be dealing with for generations.
My sons have computers, video games, smartphones, tablets, game boys…. So so so many screens. We use technology a ton in homeschooling. We use an online math curriculum, ebooks are a huge resource, and we love learning apps! Then of course in their down time they love to watch videos, play games, and chat with their friends using their tech.
Now when it comes to finding the balance between tech and off-screen time it can be difficult. Kids love their devices and don’t like putting them down. As parents though, we know the importance of setting limits so that they do other things, give their eyes a break, and explore the world around them.
My approach to parenting has always been to have as few “rules” as possible. I personally feel like the more limits you impose on your kids the more they have to push against and the more conflict that arises. I know it’s not everybody’s approach, but it’s worked for me. I try to give my kids a ton of freedom to make their decisions, learn from their mistakes, and walk their own path. When it comes to screen time though, and my 10-year-old in particular I have to set some boundaries or he would never get off screens… never… he would eat in front of them, take them to the bathroom….
So in an effort to impose a “rule” without it seeming like one, and letting him have the “unlimited” screen time he desires I came up with the idea of limiting unlimited screen time…. It sounds like an oxymoron yes, but it works!
We’ve used several approaches so I wanted to share them all with you so that you can find the one that works best for your family and your kiddo!
#1- Unlimited Screen Time After a Certain Time of Day-
One great way we’ve limited the unlimited screen time is by setting a time when it kicks in. The idea is to be screen free all day (except for school work in our case) and then after a designated time its unlimited. For our family we picked 7pm. We keep wacky hours so we usually settle down to read before bed around 11 so starting unlimited screens at 7 gave him about 3-3 ½ hours to play before it’s time to get ready for bed and settle in for the night. Basically the idea is to let the evenings be “unlimited” and so it’s easier to be off screens the rest of the day because they know that come the designated time they get to play all they want! I set our time knowing I wanted him off screens an hour before bed, then how many hours I wanted him to have to play, and set the time from there!
#2- Unlimited Screen Time Between Certain Hours-
Maybe the idea of a screen filled evening isn’t one that you like. So another approach is to set other hours where screen time is unlimited. Maybe for you it’s early afternoon, or when they first get up in the morning. One approach is to make a chunk of time unlimited screen time say 2-4 or 9-11. Another way we’ve done it is to disperse it throughout the day. We did 3 hours of “unlimited” time from like 11-12, 3-4 and 8-9, that’s a great approach for a child who wants some time all day to play. For older kids who might want to play a game they really get into for a long stretch dispersing it through the day doesn’t work as well.
#3- Use a “No Screen Time Until” list-
This approach is an interesting one. The idea is to make sure your kid’s take care of their responsibilities, be creative and productive before getting on screens. In this post from Narrowback Slacker she explains the idea of personal momentum. When our kids have a task like “read for 25 minutes” or “do something creative for ½ an hour” they get absorbed in the activity and choose to continue it for longer then the allotted period. It’s a great way to make sure your kids are prioritizing their time for things like homework and chores, plus doing a variety of things before they get absorbed in their screens. The cool thing about these lists is you can add as many or as few things as you’d like, tweak it for each child, and even have different ones for weekdays and weekends. After they’ve completed the list they get unlimited screen time… if they’re not busy doing something else!
If you’re looking for ways to limit your child’s screen time without too much resistance or struggle these are great ways to approach it. By letting them have “unlimited” time with some creative limits goes over a lot better than setting up restrictions. It’s all about perception people and when we can spin things so that everyone is happy it’s a win win!!
How do you handle your kiddos and screen time? I’d love to hear your approach!