I cannot over-emphasize how effective it has been to require my daughter to do things before she can have access to screen time. Right now as I write it is Saturday morning. We have a free day ahead of us and are taking it easy. She asked, for the first time in ages, to have her 30 minutes of iPad time. (My fault: I brought up screens in the first place.) I said ok, after she gets dressed and brushes her teeth and hair (a policy that I established back over the summer). And so … 45 minutes later she is up in her room re-reading the newest Dork Diaries book, still in her pajamas with messy hair and unbrushed teeth, no screen in sight. [Update: she did eventually get the screen time, but she read the entire book first, so I still think it was a win.]
Since putting this policy in place, we've cut her iPad time almost to nothing. This despite the fact that the things I require her to do are things that she's going to have to do eventually anyway. It's a miracle of human motivation, at least in our case. In place of that screen time she is reading, writing, drawing, doing crafts, and building elaborate structures out of MagnaTiles. Honestly, I consider this one of my greatest ever parenting wins, second only to the fact that she now cheers enthusiastically for the Red Sox and is starting to understand the game.
Also on the subject of screen time, I have taken my daughter's recommendation / request that I read more print books to heart. I've been reading more in print and less on my Kindle (though not none). This makes every book acquisition decision more complex, as I have to decide on format (print, kindle, library, audio). But I find the extra effort worthwhile. I'm validating her request as well as more visually demonstrating reading to my daughter. And there's the potential benefit that I'm reading more deeply myself. [See this article by Maryanne Wolf for more detail, and/or check out her book Reader, Come Home, which Mary Ann Scheuer recommends].
The more I read on this topic [see iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy--and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood--and What That Means for the Rest of Us and Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked, for example, as well as this recent NY Times piece by Nellie Bowles], the more I think that keeping my daughter's screen time down is important and likely to pay long term dividends. She reads more. She's less irritable. My guess is that she'll have better concentration in the long term. I know it will be harder when she's old enough for social media and when she has more homework that has to be done on a computer.
But for now, just requiring her to take care of routine business before getting on the device is working like a charm. I highly recommend giving this a try!
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