Am I in Screen Time Hell?

We got rid of our cable t.v. and then I swear my kids watched more t.v. than ever. How is that possible?

It’s not all t.v. of course.  I mean, there are DVD’s from our collection and from the library.  But my 6 year old knows how to “watch t.v.” on the computer by going to, say, the Disney or Nickelodeon websites and clicking on mindnumbing episodes of Handy Dora Squarepants Wonder Gerbils or whatever their latest “educational” show is.  Don’t get me wrong. I’m not above letting them watch that stuff.  It’s the amount they watch that bothers me.  And no one in our house was watching t.v. this summer, but of course now the kids want to watch it 27 hours per day.  But, The Husband and I had our budget trimming shears in hand, so that was that.  Plus we just discovered Netflix streaming video and Hulu. Much cheaper than cable.

Then there is the Wii, which we recently limited Firefly to an hour and half a day.  I know, I know, an hour a half is a lot. But that is about 7 hours less than what he would like to play.  We’ve chosen a “slow weaning” method vs. the “cold turkey” approach. [Wow, I am using  A LOT of quotation marks in this post. Kind of like my “grandmother” when she is writing in “birthday cards”.]

Anyway,  The Husband and I have tried to explain to the kidlings that if they watch too much t.v., their sweet brains will rot right out of their cute little heads, so Mommy and Daddy are going to start making some changes around here.

I then conducted an actual research study, wherein I took a control group of all the people on my Facebook and asked them what they personally do regarding their kids and screentime.  I got some great responses, although not as many as I thought I might.  I am not sure if it’s because people think I’m nuts for even trying to give up the wonderful “free” babysitter that modern technology has provided, or if everyone was just watching Glee that night and not looking at Facebook.  I don’t know because I don’t watch Glee until the next night when it appears on Hulu.

Anyway, I got an idea of issuing tickets for screentime and an idea for not having a t.v. and kids who love to read (mine don’t really read yet; the 6 y.o. can read but he does it only when we threaten to sell him to a nice Amish family, but that’s in another post).  I also got a great idea for only having “electronic Wednesday” and weekends.

That’s when I realized, “Wow, if Firefly were in public school, he wouldn’t have so many opportunities for screen time like he does at home.”  We’re busy, yes, but between each school activity, meal, errand that we do there’s 10 minutes here and 5 minutes there and then I’m putting the baby down for a nap and there’s a half an hour wide open. Click. On goes the flat screen.

Then I remembered another homeschooler saying that they have no screen time during “school hours” unless it’s for school.  Our school hours are kind of all over the place, based mainly on the whims, sleeping habits and climbing feats of Love Bug, but in general we school from about 1:00 to 4:00 or 5:00, with things like field trips, library trips, park days and so on in the mornings.

So we decided to limit all screen time to three half-hour chunks per day. That’s everything: t.v., computer (unless it’s a video or computer program for school) and video games.  Only 30 of those minutes can be in the morning.  Our six year old uses a timer set in 30 minute increments that he sets himself when he turns a screen on.  The other two can’t work the t.v. yet and don’t care about the computer or video games so it’s easy enough for The Husband and I to monitor their time.

Of course if it’s a weekend and they want to watch a movie on a Saturday night or something, that’s fine. We’re not trying to be hard core here.  So far, so good. I’ll keep you posted.

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3 Responses to Am I in Screen Time Hell?

  1. This is a tough one for me as well. When I was pregnant with my daughter my son became a serious TV zombie. I was just so sick and and it was way too easy to throw some food his way and plop him in front of the TV so I could rest. That was a HARD habit to break, let me tell you. On good days we’re down to about an hour a day (Usually when I make dinner). I try to pop in a Signing Time DVD or something….but sometimes it’s Dora or Thomas. I really notice a change in behavior when he watches TV on the actual TV stations as opposed to Netflix on the Wii or a DVD. I don’t know if it’s the commercials or what….but he gets a little out of control if he watches regular TV. Anywhoo. I feel ya on this one.

  2. Love Signing Time. Have you seen Rachel Coleman’s blog? It’s awesome.
    I know kids need to hear/see things repetitively to learn but especially my 4 year old will do this with t.v. shows/videos until she is living in her own little world of that t.v. show. We actually had to tell her that Caillou moved back to Canada and was no longer on t.v. because she was living in her Caillou show world and only spoke to me about Rosie and Gilbert and how she was going to make an abstract painting with Grandma if say, I asked her, what she’d like to eat for lunch. It freaked me out so we cut her off cold turkey.
    Anyway, an hour a day sounds good, Tiffany. I can only hope…
    🙂

  3. shan1004 says:

    the part about “birthday cards” made me laugh because my aunt does that. Everything gets quotes! And, referring to another post, I am freaked out about your random beeping issues. Creepy!

    As for the TV/Wii stuff… I struggle too. Mario Kart has taken over our lives because even though I severely limit it (they would honestly play 10 hours per day), the persistent ASKING for it is awful too… but it’s very effective as a reinforcer in our house so I’m taking advantage of it that way. While it lasts anyway…

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