We live in a world where everyone has a screen. Children are getting cell phones at earlier ages, and people are getting rid of their house phone. There are I-pods and I-Pads, Kindles and tablets. Add to that television and computers – and our children could spend all day on an electronic device. How do you monitor this time? How much time is appropriate? What freedom do you allow for screens? Let me share our ideas here!
Screen Time: Duration
Confession. My kids have spent way too much time on screens. To the point where my daughter felt like she had to have hers on at all times, even to just listen to music. There were fights over chargers and who was going to do what. I was getting frustrated because the screens were taking over my home.
Yet, I felt hypocritical. I work from home – on my computer. Some of my work requires me to read books- on a Kindle. I can do some work from my phone. Most of the time, my work as a Virtual Assistant/Social Media Manager looks like fun stuff- Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter. So, I felt bad restricting them when I felt like I was spending a lot of time on a screen myself.
So, we had a sit down meeting with our kids, explaining Mommy’s job. That really helped them. Then, we told them how we felt screen time was eating up their time. The more we talked to them, the more they realized they could see the time wasting too.
We talked as a family and came up with the following rules for screen time duration:
- 1 hour of free screen time- this means they can choose what they do. If school work has to be done on an electronic, this does not count against them. They can split this time up over multiple devices, but they can’t exceed one hour.
- Television counts in the one hour- with the exception of family shows. If we watch something as a family, we don’t count that against their screen time.
- Educational Time: My 7 year old daughter is homeschooled. This means she is home with me all day long. She gets an additional hour that is strictly educational related. Both of my older children have electronics that they use for school – so I feel like this is fair. During her educational hour, she can only do the things that I tell her she can do.
Screen Time: Monitor
How do we monitor or keep track of this time? Well, at first, I tried to let them be responsible. I quickly learned though that this wasn’t going to work. Not because they were dishonest- but because we are all a little forgetful. So, we set up a few boundaries that are working really well.
- No Screens in bedrooms (with one exception)- We now have a “no screen in the bedroom” policy. This is important for several reasons: 1) They can’t hide what they are doing (with have not had an issue with this, but I do have a pre-teen boy). 2) I can see how long they have been on. So, we recently moved our computer to the living room, and now all smaller electronics have a bin under the computer desk where they keep their screens. The only exception of this is my daughters cell phone- but more on that later.
- Sign Out Sheets- We have a clipboard for each child that has a simple sign out sheet. On the sheet it has a space for the device, what they did, time on, time off, parent signature, kid signature. This helps us to check out the items to them.
- Timer- My older children use a watch and the little is using a kitchen timer. This helps them know when their time is up.
We also have security software set up on the computer that tells us what websites our children have browsed.
Our daughter, who is almost 15, has a cell phone. She has signed a cell phone contract – that she wrote. It has the rules of engagement for the cell phone, as well as consequences. Her daddy and I talked to her before she wrote the contract and gave our expectations that needed to be in the contract- but that we wanted her to make the guidelines. This gave her ownership. Then, she wrote out some basic rules:
- She brings her cell phone down each night at 9 pm for me to read all text messages/look at all photos.
- She does not message or text a boy her daddy and I have not met and approved of.
- She is not to take pictures in the bathroom or in bathing suits.
- All website addresses are checked each night.
- No phone calls or text after 9 (without checking first)
- No password on her phone that mom and dad don’t know.
These rules were written by her- as protection for her. We also check all her social media outlets. She is only allowed 3, and I have to be a friend of hers as well as have all passwords to them.
With this signed contract, she is allowed to take her phone from the main living areas- but there are consequences when the rules are not followed.
Today, I am offering a free copy of our check out sheet for screens.
Chime in: What kinds of parameters have you set for screen time in your house?
Worshiping With My Life,