Screen Time :: How we cut back

I hate TV.  The brain drain.

I love TV.  The silence.

I hate TV.  The questionable messages.

I love TV.  The silence.

So what’s a mom to do?  Sure, I could throw the TV out, but honestly, I like to watch TV sometimes.  Hello… Downton Abbey!  Football!  But my kids were watching too much.  In fact, they were watching more before breakfast than I wanted them to watch all day.  Plus we have a PS3, 2 iPod Touch’s and 3 computers.  It was getting out of control.

My Cinderella watching Cinderella for the first time.
My Cinderella watching Cinderella for the first time.

I scoured Pinterest for ideas, but I’m not down with charts, cute popsicle sticks in jars or basically anything I have to keep track of.  So I came up with my own lazy simple system, which we’ve used since July… and it works!  So here goes…

No TV in the morning.  Wow, they get up and do their chores and get ready!  It’s a beautiful thing!

After school, you can only watch TV by earning it.  I made a stack of index cards.  Each one has a chore or activity on it.  Each day I pick what goes on top.  When they want to “earn” screen time, they have to do that activity.  Examples:

  • Listen to 15 minutes of math songs
  • Listen to 15 minutes of Classical Conversations memory work
  • Read for 15 minutes
  • Play piano for 15 minutes
  • Ride your bike or shoot baskets for 15 minutes
  • Do a household chore (like sweep/mop kitchen, pick up family room and vacuum, etc)
  • Clean your room

Each of these earns 22 minutes of screen time (the typical length of an episode.)  Each kid can only earn once per day.  The other kids can watch what they pick.  So since I have 3 kids doing this plan, it equals about 1 hour of total screen time per day… about what I am comfortable with.  Of course, there’s plenty of “free” screen time, like when we watch something as a family, or when I am at my limit and gosh-darn-it someone turn on the TV!

It’s beautiful.  They don’t beg for TV.  I don’t have to remember who watched more or whose turn it is to pick.  And I’m getting them to do all of those activities without me even asking them to!

The littles watch TV on an as-needed basis.  So they may watch some while we do school or while I make dinner.  Once they start school, we’ll switch them to this plan.

So that’s what works for us.  Each family is different, with different convictions and styles.  But if you’re looking to cut back on screen time, I suggest you give this a try!


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