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How I Called a Truce in the Screen Time Wars
A friend told me recently that she doesn't let her kindergartner watch TV or play video games or apps, and she only rarely allows him to see a Thomas and Friends video on Netflix.
It's hard for me to imagine banning screens to that degree, especially because I find them so helpful when I need to do chores or have an adult conversation. But her reasoning rings true: She said she has enough battles with him over which shoes to wear or when to leave the playground, and she doesn't need one more thing to cause conflict. I get that.
After we got an iPad, my 6-year-old became a broken record: "Can I play iPad? Can I play iPad?" It started at 6 a.m. as he crawled into our bed and didn't stop until my husband or I snapped "No! No iPad!" For the couple months it took us to get an iPlan in place, we were in constant war with him over when and for how long he could use the device.
Here's what we do now: He gets to play for 15 minutes at night, with a few caveats. He can't play if he's hit anyone that day, thrown something in anger, or called anyone a name. And he has to have his PJs on and teeth brushed. And I have to say, the transformation has been near miraculous. He's more aware of his negative behavior and understands what he will lose if he can't control himself. And we never have to nag him to get ready for bed.
Of course, as soon as we had this system running perfectly, I read a study pointing to screen time before bed being linked to difficulty getting to sleep. And a lack of sleep causes poor school performance, and guess what else? Difficulty controlling behavior like hitting, throwing, and name calling. Ack!
Part two of my iPlan will be reconciling short-term solutions with potential long-term effects. For now, this is working for us, and we're sticking with it. It's not as clean and simple as giving up screens altogether, but it’s more realistic for my family. My son gets his fix, we get a more a more streamlined bedtime routine, and my husband and I aren't creating rules on the fly.
Do you have solutions, tips, or tricks for managing screen time in your home? What works for you? Follow me @SierraSense