If you’re anything like me, you probably have a big problem with screen time in your house.
Sure, you know that too much screen time wreaks havoc on a kid’s developing brain and leads to issues with sleep, executive functioning, mental health, and development. It has implications for learning, attention deficits, and a healthy lifestyle. Too much screen time is universally and unequivocally bad for kids.
It also gives you a d— minute to go to the bathroom in peace. Heck, we pivoted from in-person everything to online everything in a matter of hours. We worked on screens from home with kids on screens for school while trying to get the littlest ones to be still and watch some Daniel Tiger while we were on a zoom call.
Screens are a part of life.
My oldest talks to her friends every day on the iPad; it has been the one thing that kept her connected to them in the absence of in-person school and activities. My youngest gives mom a hot minute to think while she is watching craft videos.
I’ve been a screen time stickler for years and during the pandemic, I threw in the towel hardcore. Now I’m trying to get my kids out of the screen time black hole which has involved multiple screen-time detoxes and a general weeping and gnashing of teeth. Now that we’re in summer we’re getting back to the rhythm of a routine that works for us. These are four things that need to happen before my kids are allowed on screens.
I call it the “Four C’s Before Screens”:
Chores: Each child has a chore they are responsible for. They need to eat, dress/shower, hair brushed, brush their teeth, and complete their chores.
Creative: Draw, write, color, do crafts, LEGOs/blocks, free play, or playing with clay are examples of creative activities kids can do for at least 30-60 minutes.
Constructive: Have you been outside? Have you done any exercise or seen the outside of this house? Time to get moving, people. We often accomplish this together by going to the park, playing in the backyard, or taking a walk for 30-60 minutes.
Caring: Have you done anything that benefits someone else? Find something caring to do. It could be brushing the dog, folding the laundry, making a card or drawing for a family member, or picking up trash. Anything that turns the focus on caring for someone or something else.
Here’s the best part of this:
It usually takes the kids all morning to complete these tasks, even with repeated attempts at getting out of them (because at 10 years old you learn that you can combine activities to get your screens faster and then suddenly become an expert negotiator) and/or getting engrossed in a task that you lose track of time (because who can only spend 1/2 hour on a Lego creation?!?!). So, we have lunch and it’s rest time.
Big goes to her room to introvert while Little takes a rest and then can have screen time. All is well. When naptime is over, screens are done.
Now, I am literally the worst at following through with this, but I would encourage you to take the screens and put them up and away when screen time is over. Children who sound like a herd of elephants any other time of day suddenly become ninjas when they want their screens back. Sigh. Rome wasn’t built in a day…
Godspeed, my friends.
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