For the summer, my husband, daughter and I agreed on a policy of no more than 30 minutes per day of screen time for her (with long plane trips an exception). Right as school let out, I added a modifier to that. I said that the screen time could only happen after she had tidied her room and playroom, put away any clean laundry, eaten breakfast, gotten dressed, and brushed her teeth. Because my daughter is one who prefers to kick around in her PJs all day, eating a super late breakfast, this modifier has initiated some whining. BUT it's already been hugely successful in getting her to diversify her activities.
- Spent an hour making an elaborate birthday card for a friend.
- Set up a Lego station in the front hall.
- Started a new project on her Loopdeloom.
- Dressed her new (hand-me-down) American Girl doll in a cute softball outfit.
- Read several short graphic novels.
- Went to the library with me to check out 26 books.
All of this took place before her 30 minutes of device time, which ended up happening late in the afternoon.
Yes, the whole process ended up cutting into my newspaper reading and exercise time a bit. And yes, the house is much, much messier now than it would have been if I had let her start on her tablet the minute she got up and stay on it for 3 hours (and has certainly happened in the recent past). But she is DOING things instead of passively WATCHING things, which is a clear improvement overall.
Oh, and this morning she slept later than she has all school year. She was getting up early on the weekends out of eagerness to get to the device. Knowing that she won't get to it right away, she stays in bed longer, which is surely a good thing.
- Set a hard limit on device time / screen time (at least at home, and/or for when the child is alone. Family movies and things can be additional).
- Add some constraints, things that have to be accomplished BEFORE the screen time takes place. If these are things that she will do anything to put off, so much the better.
- Communicate the policies clearly to your child, explaining your reasons. My daughter and I had a discussion about how much better it is for her to spend her time reading, playing, etc. than tapping away on a screen. We talked about how when she doesn't spend time online she is less cranky. Because she had recently spent 2+ weeks without ANY screen time (as a consequence of a misbehavior), she knew what I was talking about, even if she didn't like it.
The idea here is to convey, if you can, that you are setting the limits for the child's benefit, not your own. And this is the truth. I hate the mess around the house that results from more free play. I miss the quiet time to exercise without being interrupted while she's on her tablet. But in the big picture, the activities that she's choosing to do instead of the device time are clearly better for her development. And I can use the requirement to clean up the mess as a way to put off her device time again today.