Friday, October 7, 2011

Is that screen taking over his life?

Boys are getting a really bad rap at the moment  - not without cause.  Many parents seem to be cultivating a screen-based lifestyle whether it is their intention or not.  Computer games, PSP, TV, Wii and all those other ones that I probably know nothing about.  It's happening everywhere and it happens in my house too - if I allow it.

I am finding more and more, when friends come over they seem unable to play or spend time together for longer than 30 minutes before they are asking if they can play computer games or watch a video.  And it's so easy to excuse or justify but are we prepared to be accountable for how we manage our boys?  Yes us! We cannot blame them if we are allowing it, ignoring it or just simply condoning it.  Our behaviour also can encourage this type of behaviour - talking to people while scanning a smart phone for emails and facebook comments, leaving a television on all day, watching hours and hours of sitcoms and soapies in the afternoon, spending more time facing a computer screen than our children - all of these will encourage them to follow our example. 

Because we know how easy it is to fall into these traps we have some rules in our house to manage some of these things.

Our children get screen time every Friday night. They can choose what they want to watch, play or do but that's it.  We don't do screentime in the week UNLESS (and of course there are always exceptions):

* I am sick - we run a business from home which means that I need to ensure that the children are not disturbing their dad while he is working.  Sometimes the only way I can get some rest to recover is to get a DVD or let them watch telly

We watch the news - I believe children should be informed and know what's happening around the world.  Turn off all the teeny bop stuff and cartoons and let them see what's happening around them.  And whatever you do, don't just watch the local news.  Vary it.  News is always from a specific perspective and can be manipulated by interest groups.  Choose a different news channel every night, and why not practice some of those language skills by watching news in the 2nd or 3rd language they are learning.

*  Its been raining for 3 days and you have a few sickies.  Sickies and cabin fever don't work well.  Of course stitches, a recent break in a bone or slight concussion would fall into this category.

School related activities- we use Usborne Internet Linked books for many of our subjects as well as other online resources in our homeschooling curriculum.

*  When Sean and I need to have a serious conversation that cannot wait until later, we will sometimes put the telly on but we normally insist on a documentary type program (like National Geographic or Discovery)

There are ways though to encourage your boys to disengage from that mouse or to put down that PSP.

This is how we have created alternatives:

*  If the sun's shining - they have to be outside, unless its 40 degrees and then they can play in the shade or come inside.

We go out!  Children who are bored will often ask for screen time - but if they are out j-boarding, swimming, surfing or visiting friends or family - who wants to be stuck inside anyway?

 *  We do activities with them - board games, walks, bike rides - the list is endless.  Also to keep up with busy boys, we rotate.  Sometimes both Sean and I do something with them, other times we rotate.  After all it gives us each time for breathing space and down time.

*  When friends come over and ask for screen time(and they will) we simply say no!  They are incredibly good at tagging each other as they offer you their puppy dog expressions, but don't give in.  After all, they are there to visit each other, not visit the screen.

*  We are accountable to one another.  Sean and I talk to each other.  We both slip and slide into different levels of permissiveness and when one of us is allowing the children too much screen time, we will remind one another.

It's a constant battle, and believe me it doesn't get easier - they just get better at asking.  I know that technology is moving ahead and I do believe there is a place for it, but I really believe that balance and healthy living is worth fighting for.

How do you manage screen time in your house?


  1. Hi Mel, i think you about covered it all...the kids are into bugs of all kinds at the moment, which i find good as it gets them outdoors..lifting rocks and climbing mountains..winter seems to make us all want to hibernate next to...some sort of i am glad it is summer again...

  2. yes winter is always hard, but we are finding that often we struggle more than they do. I become lazy and then its so easy to put them in front of screen. We are learning to brave the cold by dressing warmer and getting them to read, play games or build lego rather than computer games and tv.

  3. Thanks, a good wake-up call, I did become a bit "lazy". I think planning activities and the day helps too.

  4. Esther, I so agree with you. I find that I often want to "fill" time when I haven't planned anything or when I want to do something and they are nagging me. But I am having to consciously say no. Even this morning, they asked if they could play computers while their dad was still asleep and I had to say no, reminding them that screen time is not Friday, Saturday and Sunday! I definitely have not got this one aced but fight the convenience of it every day!

  5. Thank you Mel! I totally agree with you and it is a constant battle to say NO.
    May I add another exception for a family video? Weekend morning when we want to sleep in late...

  6. Great ideas here Mel :) A good reminder!

  7. Great post, and wonderful tips on reducing TV time, I have to remind my self all of the time! Thanks~April


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