Are your kids constantly asking if they can play on their iPad, watch YouTube, or join their friends online to play video games?
During the summer months, it seems like as soon as there is downtime (ie – nothing “fun” to do) my kids immediately ask me if they can use their screens.
In a perfect world, I wouldn’t make screen time an option and tell my kids it’s good for them to be bored. But the reality is, screen time is now a part of our everyday life, and I can’t avoid it. What I can do is put a system in place, so my kids know what’s expected of them to have screen time, and be conscious of how their time on screens is spent.
I’m sharing that system with you in this post, along with my (unpopular?) opinion on screen time for kids.
How I Manage Screen Time in My House
My kids are 7 and 9 years old. Over the last few years, I’ve put systems in place for my kids to earn screentime.
In the summer, we use a Summer Routine Checklist.
The Summer Routine Checklist contains basic tasks that help them prepare for the day, complete chores, educational work, and physical activity.
I’ll break down the tasks below:
- Prepare for the day – During the school year, my kids use this Morning Routine Checklist to get ready for the day. (You can download a free morning routine checklist for your kids and yourself, here.) In the summer, they must eat breakfast, brush their teeth, get dressed, and make their beds.
- Educational work – The kids each have a small bin filled with the educational activities and reading assignments the school sent home for the summer. I’ve laid out the expectations for schoolwork with the kids so all they need to do is grab their bins and get to work.
- Daily Chore – Each week, I schedule a daily chore for the kids. I use this Chore Chart I created so the kids have a visual of their chore, and can easily track when it’s completed.
- Physical Activity – When the kids go to their summer recreation program, they are outside and running around the whole time. But when it’s raining, I require they do a few minutes of exercise.
Once the items on the items above are complete, they can use their screens.
I try to put a limit on how long they can use their screens in the summer. If the weather is nice, I limit screen time to 30 minutes at a time throughout the day.
When it’s raining, or when we’ve had a busy day without screens, I let the 30 minute rule slide.
I try to make it as easy on myself as possible to monitor and control screen time.
In the past, the kids have “earned” minutes of screen time. This system ended up being more work for me…I had to track their behaviors and chores/activities they completed, then figure out how many minutes of screen time they could earn for the behaviors and activities. It was just too much to handle and I didn’t stick with it.
How Much Screen Time Is Too Much?
This is such a popular question. The experts can share with you how much time is appropriate, based on age. This is a great way to get some guidance on how much screen time is enough.
However, no one knows your child like you do. I have one child who completely zones out when he is in front of a screen. When it’s time to turn the screen off, he has a hard time readjusting to reality. Because of this, I try to limit his screen time to 30 minutes at a time.
Use your wisdom as a parent to decide how much screen time you’ll allow for your kids.
If the weather is bad, or I’m immersed in a project, my kids may spend a long stretch of time watching TV and/or using screens. Then there are other days when we are busy or they’re playing with friends, that they don’t even touch a screen.
In the springtime when the kids start back with baseball and soccer, there are days that go by without using iPods or playing video games. During this season of life, when they do have the opportunity for screen time, I’m more relaxed about the time they spend on screens.
Is Screen Time Really That Bad?
When I became a mom, I didn’t realize how much of my parenting would be taken up with screen time discussions and decisions.
When I was around other moms, the topic would frequently come up about how our kids act after being on screens, or how much screen time is too much, or what are ways to make screen time “safe” for kids?
And the kids are always asking about when they can use their screens or arguing over why they cannot use their screens.
As much as I would like to resist video games, YouTube, and the silly shows on other streaming platforms, I remind myself that this is equivalent to me wanting to watch MTV and play Nintendo all day. Actually, I spent a lot of time watching TV and playing Nintendo and I ended up just fine….
It’s easy to get caught up in the cautionary tale of “screen time is bad for kids”. I’m not a professional when it comes to screen time, but I’ve changed my mindset about seeing screen time as all bad and something to be avoided.
I keep close tabs on what the kids are watching. But I also remember that I was addicted to the first season of the “Real World” on MTV and I was 12 years old. When I think back to my childhood, I’m more understanding of why my kids are so intrigued with the entertainment their screens provide. It’s part of their development.
Video games have now become a way for kids to “play” together. When my kids have friends over, I remind myself that sitting side-by-side and playing Roblox is just another way for the kids to hang out and connect.
When my kids were toddlers, I used the TV to occupy them when I needed to get something done, or I was feeling burned out and needed a break. If you’re a mom of young kids, DO NOT feel guilty for using the TV as a babysitter sometimes!
How Will You Manage Screen Time During the Summer?
I’ve shared my process for managing screen time in our household.
I’ve also shared my (nonprofessional) opinion on screen time and how it doesn’t always deserve a bad rap.
In the end, the decision is up to you on how you want to manage screen time in your house. You know your kids better than anyone else. Every child is different. In my household, one child struggles more to transition off screens and it shows in his behavior.
If you decide to put a checklist or rules in place for screen time, make sure it’s something that’s easy for you to implement and stick to. If you aren’t consistent with the process, you’re kids won’t take it seriously and it will turn into a headache for you to manage.
Do you have a system in place for managing screen time in your household? If so, please comment below.
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