When my younger son got the dreaded Xbox over a year ago, both boys would play and play and play some more. We soon realised they were playing far too much. So we set a timer! Result! They had an hour on the Xbox a day.
That worked. For a week or two.
But then my younger son just drifted off and picked up whatever device was available to watch YouTube videos or play games like Clash of Clans. This was harder to police. There was no timer and he would just drift from one device to the next. Ban one and he just went and picked up another. He was spending longer and longer in front of screens, usually cut off from the rest of the family in his bedroom.
Meanwhile, his brother was watching more and more films a day – he could watch three or four on a weekend, on his own in his bedroom and was sending messages on his phone or Kindle as late as 11.30pm. Homework was often done in a panic at 9.30pm on Sunday. And their sister? She was slumped in front of the TV in front of the lounge, watching the reality shows she’d recorded, over and over again.
Something had to change. For their education and learning, for their health, for their sleep and their social skills.
We tried a ‘no screens before tea’ rule. Before tea they had to prioritise homework, music practise and caring for the guinea pigs, who were becoming increasingly forgotten, particularly in winter. That rule worked for about three days, but they soon drifted into bad habits again.
After the Easter holidays, I was determined we were going to make a change. Essentially there is one very simple rule – two hours’ screen time a day. But I know my kids will find loop-holes and ‘what ifs’ in every situation. So the rules have been spelt out VERY clearly. They’d been warned, but they still weren’t happy when they saw what the rules looked like written down:
Screen time is good for socialising with friends and for learning, but too much can lead to lack of exercise and fresh air, over-stimulation of the brain and lack of sleep, not enough time spent on homework, bad behaviour and becoming anti-social (spending too much time away from family).
Screen time is all TV, DVDs, Xbox, iPhone, Kindle and iPad. It is up to you how you divide your time between all screens – you can spend the full two hours on one (except Xbox) or divide it between several.
Screen time will be limited to two hours per day on school days and three hours on weekends and school holidays (but will be significantly less when we are away on holiday).
Screen time is not a right – some days it will not be possible to have the full two or three hours, due to sport, days out or school commitments. Complaints about reduced screen time will lead to screen time being taken away the next day.
Additional screen time will be allowed for watching TV as a family at weekends.
No screen time before school or before tea. Before tea is for homework, music practise and guinea pig care. Everyone will help out with the guinea pigs, including getting them out of the hutch every day. If you run out of things to do before tea, read a book or go outside.
Screen time before tea will be allowed for homework – please ask Mum and show her what you are doing.
Homework is not to be done after 8.15pm (Daughter), 8.45pm (Younger son) or 9.15pm (Eldest) to allow you to unwind and get to sleep. If you have forgotten or are late with your homework, you will have to take the consequences at school. There will be no excuse letters from home.
Always ask permission before going on all screens, so that Mum/ Dad can take note of the time and keep track of how long you are spending on there.
Always let Mum/ Dad know when you take a break from screens, so that Mum/ Dad can take note of the time and keep track of how long you are spending on there.
Screens to be turned off and devices handed over at 8.15pm (Daughter), 8.45pm (Younger son) and 9.15pm (Eldest). If devices need charging, hand over chargers and they will be charged downstairs.
Breaking of any of these rules will lead to screen time being taken away the next day. Continued breaking of the rules will lead to screen time being taken away for longer and loss of pocket money.
These rules will be reviewed regularly.
What they don’t know is that I am prepared to relax the rules if they are prepared to take responsibility and police themselves. Until then, this is how it’s going to be.
What do you think? Do you have screen time rules? Do they work?