Screen time had gotten out of control. Pushing aside toys, iPads had become the drug of choice. Thanks to this one simple rule, we have changed screen time forever. Yeah, some weird shit happened too.
The truth is, this summer it had gotten out of control. Both of my kids were grouchy and angry when I ended screen time on the fly. My 4-year-old set into sheer panic if her battery level fell below 10%. She loved to say “we need to go home so I can have some relax time”. Uhmmm . . . no. Child, you are 4 your whole life is relax time. We had plenty of real life fun this summer: swimming, water parks, play dates, bike rides, trips, classes. We even hosted a book club to keep reading fun. But at the end of the day my kids were still getting a shit-ton of screen time. They viewed their iPads as if they were a right and not a privilege. My 9-year-old has reached an entirely new level of addiction, where play dates INCLUDE electronics. Texting, FaceTime, SnapChat filters and video making. Toss in the dreaded line that every parent of every generation has heard before “All my friends have a – fill in the blank – – in our case iPhone. Which I know is a load of crap. Still, I needed to get this situation under control before the cell phone era begins.
I too, had fallen into the trap of “all their friends have them and play them like it’s their job”. I got really good at justifying the use. Technology has its benefits. I will not argue differently. Facetime for Grandparents, cousins and friends far away, Minecraft and creative games, math and word blending games. And let’s be serious, how many hours each summer did I spend dumb-ing it up in front of the TV? Adventures in Babysitting, Dirty Dancing, Just One of the Guys, to name a few. Handing them an iPad definitely comes in handy when attacking our mountainous to-do lists. You are still reading this post; therefore, you know exactly where I am coming from. I know that all of this was my fault and I take full responsibility. There had to be a happy medium.
You could certainly go the advanced route and set screen time limits using a Wi-Fi device like Circle With Disney or KoalaSafe. These options also help to filter online content. I’m sure we will explore these real soon. But in the meantime, my new simple rule won’t cost you a dime.
The rule is straightforward. The premise was simple, and conditions can be altered to fit your family’s needs. iPads will no longer live in bedrooms. They live in an unspecified location of my choosing to change on a daily basis if needed. Kids will have access once all of the following are complete:
- homework is done
- rooms are tidy
- chores are done
Here’s what I expected to happen, and I would have been damn happy with these results:
- homework would be done without argument and flailing on the ground
- rooms would be cleaned without argument and flailing on the ground
- chores would be done without argument and flailing on the ground
- They would hustle through the real priorities ready for another toke off the pad
A girl can dream.
Here’s what actually happened. I started the rule on Tuesday. They didn’t get access again to iPads until Sunday. My 9-year-old started sleeping until 7 am every day. She used to wake up at 5 am for iPad time. Yeahhhh I know. Can you say addict? Now imagine how much less grumpy you would be with 2 more hours of sleep each night. Together they would approach cleaning their rooms, and get completely lost in the shuffle playing. They played Barbie’s, sling-shot-ing dolls into walls. They played dress up and covered their faces in horrific makeup. We played board games, took more walks and adventured more in our backyard. We laughed together watching America’s Favorite Home Video’s and squealed through Stranger Things. They were louder, messier and far more annoying without iPads. They fought more, “helped” me cook more, wanted my attention more. They were kids. They were real life kids being real life assholes. Just as they should be.
Homework and chores did get done on the daily. There was still some flailing. but overall, attitudes were better. By the time Sunday rolled around I ended up helping them tidy their rooms. But you want to know the weirdest part? They never asked for their iPads. They knew I was set in the rule, and they knew what they had to do to get them. And they just got lost in being kids to care enough to follow through on their part. We are now mid way through week two and the new rule is still working quite well. The house is still a disaster but my kids are being kids. There are no more technology withdraws. They go to bed with less argument and now look for toys to play at home instead of going right to the iPad. Overall I’m really happy and I consider screen time changed forever.
This isn’t my first day on the job, iPad manipulation is going on my resume. Read about iPad Potty Training , MUAH Ha Ha. . .
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