With summer comes a lack of structure and routine. It is easy to let many things slide, including the amount of time our children spend in front of a screen. Here are five steps to simply, but effectively, put limits on technology this summer.
1. Talk to your spouse. So often we skip over this step. Talk about what you think would be reasonable, listen to counter arguments (if there are any), discuss areas of compromise and then come to an agreement on how much screen time your children should have each week.
2. Identify your “currency”. Tickets, colored paperclips, clothes pins, craft sticks, or pompoms all work great as a tangible “currency” for screen time. Envelopes, jars or small bins make great “un-used” and “used” receptacles. Assign two containers for each child.
3. Establish your “exchange rate”. Thirty minutes of screen time per token is typical, but use whatever works for you.
4. Post your rules. Here are some effective rules to govern your new system (modify to suit your family). You may want to type them up on a poster near the token containers.
- Each token is worth 30 minutes of screen time.
- You get __________ tokens per week, Sunday to Sunday.
- You must ask before redeeming a token – and I might say “not now.” (This is a privilege for your children, not a right.)
- You can lose tokens for poor behavior. (Caution: Do not fall into the trap of threatening to remove tokens or trying to bait them into good behavior with “carrots”. Choose one area that your child is struggling with and focus on that. If they engage in that behavior, they lose a token – plain and simple.)
- You can earn up to __________ additional tokens for “above and beyond” behavior. (This refers to good behavior that comes from the heart – behavior that shows character development or progress in a certain area that is “above and beyond” what would be expected and done out of love, not selfish gain.)
- At the end of the week you will receive _________ cents for each token that is unused. (This step is optional, but recommended for older children to help them develop important skills such as personal responsibility, delay of gratification, budgeting and prioritizing.)
5. Share with your children. You can let them participate in making or choosing the tokens if you would like. Homemade “screen bucks” – tickets that look like dollars – are a fun option. Let them decorate their containers or envelopes as well.
Give it a try! You will enjoy less conflict over screen time with this summer-friendly system!
[Photo credit: caprisco from morguefile.com]