Modern*Simplicity

Creating a Life Free From Chaos

How to Curb Kids’ Screen Time

How to Curb Kids' Screen TimeMy kids (and I) spend way too much time on screens. I know it. And I’m fully aware my kids got this habit from me since they always see me and my husband with our iDevices, all the time. The screen time is out of control.

My kids have had a lot of access to the Hulu, Netflix, Xbox, mobile devices, computers, and video games, and it’s taking its toll. (YouTube OMG.) Screen time seriously went through the roof when the boys got their own iPhones. It doesn’t help my anxiety to see them on their screens while my mind is racing with fears of online bullying, pornography, and worse. It really doesn’t help when I hear them parroting questionable language they’ve heard on YouTube or talking about mature subjects they stumbled onto on television.

Ninety-eight percent of households with children 8 and under have access to a mobile device, such as a tablet or smartphone. That’s an increase from 52 percent just six years ago, according to a nationally representative parent survey from Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization. Kids are spending an average of two and a half hours a day on a screen. For 8- to 12-year-olds, the average daily screen time was four and a half hours, according to a 2015 Common Sense Media report.

The American Academy of Pediatrics warns that overuse of digital media can put kids and teens at risk of obesity, sleep problems, cyberbullying, and poor performance at school.

I know all these statistics, and yet I still get lazy and let them loose with their devices. Part of the problem is that I work from home full time, and when the kids are around, I’ve defaulted to letting them watch TV and or play video games so I can work in relative peace. Bad habit. I also have a chronic illness and tend to wear myself out during the day, so I’m just plain done by the time the kids get home from school.

In a much-needed effort to get control back of the screens, I’m going to start curbing TV time in part by setting regular work hours for myself, something I’ve never really done. I work a regular work day, usually 9 a.m. to around 5 p.m., but then I often keep my devices with me “just in case” I’m needed. I’m never really off. My office is *right there* plus my laptop can follow me anywhere. If I have some better boundaries with solid work hours, it’ll be easier to come up with screen-less activities for my kids to do while I’m busy, and hopefully it will preserve some of my energy to actually interact fully with them when I’m not working. This is going to be even more important in a few weeks when the kids get out of school for the summer (cue the horror movie music).

The boys will also have a screen time “cap” per day. They will need to earn that screen time with daily chores + outdoor time + homework, and if no homework from school, they’ll get to do a few pages of grade-appropriate workbooks. (Those workbooks arrived yesterday. Needless to say, the kids were NOT amused!) I’m also going to encourage them to go play in their rooms — you know, with all those toys they never touch. The way I played when I was a kid… analog.

A tactic I used when they were younger is the Tech Ticket. You may have seen Tech Tickets or TV punch cards elsewhere, and I got this idea from Pinterest. I created my own Tech Ticket, with spaces for 10 30-minute sessions where the kids can play video games, surf on the computer, or watch TV, whether it’s Netflix, a DVD, or Hulu. Basically, it’s 1 hour a day, 5 days a week.

We’ve used the Tech Tickets for weekdays during school weeks, though it would be great to implement before summer. I thought I was going to be met with resistance, but both my boys were intrigued with the idea. I did offer a “surprise” if they could get through the week without using all their punches. tech_ticket.indd

I’m offering my Tech Ticket as a pdf download below — just print it off and cut the tickets apart, one ticket per kid. There are 8 tickets per page. Use a hole punch or marker to mark off each 30-minute increment the kids use. I printed mine on random colored cardstock to make it fun.

What are your best tactics for curbing kids’ screen time? How have your kids gotten into the habit of being screen-free? Share in the comments!

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One Reply

  1. This is a great idea. I’ve been down this road with my youngest. I think that awareness is a huge first step toward change, and letting them know you care enough about it to do this will help them be more aware of it too. I have always made art supplies and crafting, lego etc available to my daughter and found out that she has developed into quite the little artist. We also have a mini farm and that helps a lot. Even though, we still have to have the screen time talk from time to time. Great article Sandy, and I wish you all the best for a wonderful summer with the kids. Blessings, Hanna

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