Our five kids range from 3 to 13 years old. And over the past several months, we found ourselves allowing them more screen time than we had previously. (It’s been Winter in Minnesota for what feels like years!) We started out by letting them watch a couple of educational movies or VeggieTales throughout the week. I also started scheduling computer time at the library on Wednesday mornings.
But then, to limit the incessant movie requests, we switched up our strategy. We made Saturday mornings “Screen Time”. The rule was that the kids could play computer games, video games, iPad, or watch movies until 10 am. But no asking any other times. This worked well for a while (plus they still had Library Wednesdays too). However, slowly the kids started getting up earlier and earlier. At one point, they began getting up at 5AM on Saturdays just to get in extra screen time. So we halted that and made the rule that nothing could be turned on until 7am.
Cutting Back A Bit More
This new rule of Saturday 7-10am screen time worked well. For a while anyway. I still allowed 2-3 short learning movies throughout the week (as our 3-year-old didn’t really benefit much from the Saturday gig). ***Side note. If you haven’t heard of LeapFrog DVDs, check them out! Our kids have learned their letters and sounds by the time they were 3 by watching The Letter Factory a couple times per week.*** And then there was still Wednesday mornings at the library. But there were things we were noticing in our kids that we just weren’t happy about.
Still Looking For A Change
As the months wore on, we saw attitudes and actions changing… And not for the better. The kids weren’t getting along quite as well as they used to. Responses were short and a bit snippy (to each other as well as my husband and me). And their overall attitudes were less than ideal. So Mike and I decided to make another change. Something that many would maybe even consider to be drastic. It was finally time. We Needed To Just Turn The TV Off!
It Was Time: We Needed To Just Turn The TV Off
After one particularly bad Saturday morning, we were just done. We sat everyone down and laid out some new rules. Saturdays were no longer “tv day”. When they get bored, there is no more asking for a movie (even an educational one). Computer games are a rare treat now. And if anyone complains they are bored, I assign a chore. With a well-stocked game closet and a plethora of toys, there is no reason to be bored!
And The Changes Started
Wouldn’t you know, it didn’t take long before we began to see positive changes. Our kids began relying on each other as playmates again. They initiated games with each other. Dart gun wars commenced. Imaginative play with LEGO’s, Playmobil, and Modarri Cars became everyday events again. Puzzles and educational activities happened without my suggesting them. They have all started spending hours reading now too!
A New Way Of Thinking = A New Life
Honestly, we do still allow SOME screen time. We just watched a family movie last week. And I still let our 3 and 5-year-old watch a LeapFrog DVD once or twice a week. But there’s no more begging. No more whining. Library day is spent looking at books. And everyone has adjusted. The kids know that being in front of a screen is just not the way our family will be living our life.
Instead, my husband and I play games with our kids. We make a point to sit down and play at least one game with some or all of the kids daily now. Heck, our 5-year-old has even learned how to play Catan! (And he’s getting pretty good even. He just won his first game this week!) We’ve taught the kids a variety of card games including 500 Rummy, Cribbage, and others. So while the majority of the time they play with each other, it’s been really awesome to see the joy on their faces when my husband or I take time to join them too.
Take The Step, Make The Change, See The Difference
Was it easy? Absolutely not. There are still days where it would be easier to turn the television on and let them zone out. However, studies have proven that watching too much television affects brains in a negative way. It leads to shorter attention spans and even problems with learning. With that said, I am not completely anti-television. I enjoy watching a funny show or family movie as much as the next person. However, I do think the entire world could stand to cut their screen time. So if you’re looking to start making a change and lessening screen time for your family, consider creating a list of activities you could do instead. Or print out the one below to get you started:
Small Steps Make Great Strides
As a parent, I know it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Just know that everything you do makes a difference in the lives of your child(ren.) Even making small changes can add up to a big difference!