This has to be the most common problem I hear parents talk about. No matter their intention, no matter what they try and do, their kids end up on electronics and do not want to get off of them. This is a giant concern as many studies have shown that extended periods of time on electronics have numerous negative side effects. One of the most easily seen side effects, and the one that causes the most problems, is the emotional instability that comes with too much screen time.
How do we get them off electronics and keep them off?
Do you remember when your kids were around 18 months or two years old and while exploring you had to tell them “no” a lot because of dangers? The hot oven. The electric
sockets. The power cords. The one locked cabinet that held chemicals they kept going back to just because they couldn’t open it. Remember how calm but consistent you were with your kids when telling them no? That is what we need to revisit now.
We need to be more persistent than our kids and we need to be consistent.
Before we can become consistent though, we need to make a plan. I recommend sitting down with to make a plan, with your spouse, even your kids if they are older teens, and have a lengthy discussion.
Will any electronic games will be allowed at all during the school week?
What is seen as necessary screen time during schooling?
When is the cut off for the day?
Talk it all out and be sure to hear everyone out. Sometimes a good idea comes from these talks and can help make the day go smoother. If your kids are involved, hear them out as well. Don’t let their frustrated tone get you frustrated but remind yourself to be calm yet persistent. Things with electronics need to change. They can have a say in how, but they need to think it through as well.
This plan needs to be a personalized plan for your family.
In our home, we have “computer school”, which includes websites that help the kids practice concepts that have been taught, and we use Minecraft to build things that we read about in history. There is a certain level of screen time that is required every day during school hours. Our rule is that book work must be done first, and there is no other screen time during the school day. I had allowed an educational show during the lunch break but that quickly turned into whatever show they wanted and even more wiggles after lunch when I needed to be doing group subjects. That one show during lunch could easily turn into three as well, which completely messed up the afternoon.
Sometimes the original plan needs to be reevaluated.
The Minecraft tie in for school was also changed. I have a boy who loves Minecraft and started spending four hours on it, building the history tie in. It is great that he is inspired to work on things and that he loves explaining what he learned about history but adding four hours of extra time inside the house at the end of the school day is not healthy for him. He needs to be out in the sunshine, running and playing with his friends. We have decided that instead of allowing the history builds every day, it is to be a Friday only activity.
A few options
Only After School
One possible way to set up better control with electronics is to limit it to only after school time. While play breaks happen throughout our day, electronics are not allowed if all school has not been done. Also, I have told the kids that they must ask me before they get on electronics, even if they asked during lunchtime if they could do something after school. I don’t know about yall but there are some days where plans that were made, need to be changed because of life and the fun that the kids planned sometimes needs to be shuffled. Kiddos will sometimes not come check in because they are worried that we will tell them plans have changed.
Limited to only one or two hours total for the day
Another way we have handled limiting electronics is to say that no more than an hour can be done during the week, and two hours on the weekend. This time does not include any time spent on school computer, so you can see how my older boy was able to start doing 4 hours of “Minecraft school.” During the week, my hubby is really tired after work and his favorite family activity at the end of the day is to watch a tv show with the kids. Often, this means that the kids do not get any electronic games if they want to watch one of the fun shows with Daddy. This seemed to help bring awareness to their electronic usage but to help with the time tracking (because you know kids are going to say “I only just got on”) I created an electronics time tracking sheet. The kids are to write their name, write what electronics they are doing, to include the Minecraft school tie in, and what time they finished and stopped. My older two did well using this but my 10 year old “forgot” a lot and I was able to figure out he was doing 2 to 3 hours every day.
No electronic games during the week at all.
My older boy plays on Minecraft using the history tie in to not count the time. My youngest “forgets” to write down when he starts doing electronics and is always saying he “just hopped on” when I know he started over an hour ago. Even my daughter can spend hours on her computer, reading e-books and writing her own book. With all the little ways my kids have figured out how to get extra screen time and the increase in the moodiness in my house, we have decided to limit screen time further. This week, we have said there are absolutely no games during the week. Minecraft history tie in is only allowed on Friday but that day is our light school day to allow for field trips and makeup work. There has been no time spent on the switch, none on games on the computers, and no book writing on the computer so far either. Now, that last one I wouldn’t typically limit but my daughter has literally spent all day on her computer, not moving, and turned down invites to play with friends. It is time to cut it back. For the most part, this change has gone over well but for my youngest, it is the most difficult. He has a personality that seems to thrive on interactions with others and when everyone is busy, his next favorite thing to do is anything with a screen. I cannot tell you how many times he asks in a day if he can play on the switch or watch 5-minute crafts. Overall though, the attitudes this week have greatly improved.
I just need to keep reminding them of the new rules
I think the hardest part of regaining control of the electronics is managing ourselves. We become busy with school work or we get caught up with other tasks we need to complete and can sometimes not think. My youngest’s favorite thing to do is to come back and keep asking every 30 minutes. Or, he will wait until he sees me busy cooking or working on my own school to ask me. My mind is distracted and I “just need a minute.” Does that sound familiar? I have worked hard this week on managing my own tendency to pick the easy response and to calmly help them manage themselves. So, when the kids ask us for the fifth time to play a video game or we walk by and notice them on the electronics without asking, we need to remind them of the new rules and ask them to turn it off right away. Be helpful and suggest other fun activities.
I often suggest bike rides, drawing with chalk, jumping rope, or playing imagination games in the woods behind our house. I try to direct their mind from something frustrating (no electronics) to something they really enjoy doing. I even suggest they take their coloring or art pads outside. Often times, once they get started with something to do off-screen, they start having a lot of fun and start coming up with their own ideas. Another big help is to show them that you can do the same. I make a point to not be on any apps on my phone during the school day and I keep all youtube watching and blog reading to after school time. I also go on bike rides with the kids as often as I can. Show them that it is not only something that is a good idea for them but a good idea for everyone. It’s a healthy way to choose to be.
Most of all, enjoy the learning journey with your kiddos.
Greetings! My name is Joy and I am currently a stay at home mom who is homeschooling her three kids in South Carolina. I love learning and I love sharing the love of learning with others so getting to home school my kids and watch the “ah-ha” moments when they understand something is unbelievably rewarding. I have been homeschooling since my twins were preschool age so we are going on 9 years now. I am also a military spouse, so we have the added joy of being a military family with some of the complications that come with it. As a family, we stay busy with our scouting groups, American Heritage Girls and TrailLife, and we do many camping and hiking trips with them. When I have downtime, I am typically reading books I have sitting around the house, on YouTube/websites getting more information on different home school programs, or working on plans for homeschool. I look forward to being able to share our experiences with everyone and help encourage all homeschooling families.