This is, by far, the question I get asked the most often. How do you monitor video game time for you boys?
We’ve always held fast to the rule of no ‘screens’ during the week for our boys. This was super easy for me because, well, I hate video games. They’re mindless, couch potato making, bunches of nonsense that make kids whiny and miserable. Don’t believe me? Go tell your kids it’s time to turn them off. (ha!)
I know I’m an over the top hater and so I had to set the rules just as much for me as for them. Every time they’re squeaky little voices would ask, “Can we play video games?” I would cringe and anger would start to well up in my whole entire being. Then I would begin the rant of, “It’s a beautiful day. Why aren’t you outside? blah blah blah.”
So we set some rules. No screen time during the week when they were busy with school and homework and playing at friends houses. (I won’t even start on how ‘playing’ with friends often just means two boys staring at a screen for two hours. That’s not playing, people!!)
Our rules worked fabulously for us for many reasons.
1) I only got asked if they could play video games 2 days out of the week. That’s 5 days of peace! Total score.
2) If you allow your kids to play video games on saturday they wake up early and leave you alone! My husband and I started sleeping in until 8! Then 9! Then sometimes even 10! Glorious.
This has worked for us for the past 6 or 7 years. Fabulously, I might add.
Then, just before Christmas, sometime right after they had brought home their report cards (little schemers that they are) the boys asked if they might be allowed to sometimes play video games after school. I thought about our system and how long it had been working for and I agreed that maybe, just maybe it was time for a tweak. My boys are now 13, 11 and so close to 10 he can taste the birthday cake! What worked at 7 and 8 could probably use some revamping.
So I took some time and thought it out and figured out a new system. The boys were given a total of 5 hours of ‘screen’ time per week. I got out 10 popsicle sticks for each boy, put their initial on it and labeled it ’30 minutes’. I stuck those in a jar labeled Screen Time. Right next to the jar is Screen Times best friend ‘All Used Up’. So the boys have 5 hours to use per week and when they play a half hour increment they simply transfer popsicle stick from one jar to the next.
There were a few kinks to work out. Like no screens before school and none until all homework was complete. No using 15 minutes and saving 15 minutes and just remembering it. You use half an hour or lose the remainder. Timers must ALWAYS be set when you’re playing. My boys choose to set it for 15 minute intervals so they know when they’re half done. As an aside the timer deal has also taught them how quickly time goes when you’re playing video games. They can NOT believe how fast an hour goes by. It’s an important thing for them to recognize that they could sit there for 2, 3, 4 hours and think it was just a little while.
It’s worked really well so far. I think in time they’ll probably ask for more time as emailing and facebook become part of their worlds. But for now it’s not really so they play their silly games or apps or something on the computer and when the timer dings – they’re done! I don’t have to be the bad guy telling them to turn it off!
Which brings me to my question: How do you deal with ‘screen’ time in your house? Do you set limits? Weekdays only? Weekends only? Is it a great big free for all? Or do you have those fairy like children that I hear about in legends who don’t really like video games?