Screen Time Suspension

Don’t you love it? There’s 120 acres of property to roam outside our back door, motorbikes, dogs, swimming pool, etc. yet I constantly have children begging for indoor activities that requires eyes glued to screens. Jonty had some friends around on a weekend, and I walk in and find them like this.

In our house this week, there is a suspension, until further notice, of the children’s screen time activities. So this week, and possibly longer, the TV is not being turned on, DVD’s are not being played, the DS and Leap Pad is out of action, computer games are not allowed and playing games on phones are prohibited.

I am not against any of the above, but there have been addictive behaviours creeping in, and there has been a lot of discontent and unhappiness. It’s crazy that the joy the child gets from playing the safe little games and shows can totally disintegrate and be not so harmless once the device is turned off. Trent particularly has been very cantankerous and is constantly begging to play or watch something on a screen. When the privilege is denied, there is much weeping, wailing and the preschool equivalent of  gnashing teeth – normally in the form of a tantrum or incessant whining.

Already it has been so much calmer since Friday when I pronounced the no screen verdict. There was much mourning on Friday. Happily, Saturday was Trent’s birthday, and except for asking a few times, they had plenty of new toys to play with and a party so the transition was smoother.

The ban was temporarily lifted for half an hour yesterday. The piano tuner arrived and the triplets, who fancy themselves as pianists were fascinated and constantly trying to bash on the keyboard, so I had to take desperate measures to divert their attention. Good old Chuggington saved the day.

Of course, it’s more work for me at times. It’s often so convenient to let the kids watch ABC 2 while I get a few jobs done in the morning, or let Trent play my phone while the triplets sleep in the middle of the day while I answer some emails or do some other little job. We don’t have the TV on all day, so I haven’t found that we have increased the non-TV activities as much, we have always had imaginative play, outdoor time and craft activities during our day. Instead, I’m finding that Trent has got used to the idea and is finding his own way to occupy himself during the times when the grown ups are doing other things. At the moment he is colouring-in and before that he had been vacuuming.

I’ve been suprised that the triplets have happily adjusted to not having their daily fix of television viewing after the bath, as has been their tradition.

Peppa Pig’s assistance with after bath activities. The triplets rather like a spot of ABC 2 while they get their PJ’s on.

It would be tempting to have a complete shutdown and completely ban screens totally. Unfortunately, this is not the world we live in anymore. It is important that children learn self control with electronic devices, even if during these early days the self control is imposed. In time, the lesson will be learned. The challenge will be re-introducing the screens into the household, and yet maintaining harmony, contentment and encouraging the children to be motivated to find  off-screen activities on their own.

At the moment I’m considering a chart with time limits attached. Once the time is gone, the children should be able to see that it is over for the day and think of other things to do so that we don’t have the continual begging and negotiation for more electronic time.

So do you have little screen addicts at your home? What are some of your strategies to regulate screen behaviour? I love hearing other peoples strategies.

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