How to Limit Your Child’s Screen Time

How to Limit Your Child’s Screen Time

Trouble with TV

A decade ago, I was addicted to television. I didn’t watch it; my kids did. I used children’s programming and videos as a babysitter. Then I read The Plug-In Drug and was convicted that I needed to make a change. With minimal protest, I was able to limit my kids’ screen time.

Grief Over Games

When my boys were little, and given my experience with TV, I had no intention of ever getting a game system. I caved under the pressure of other parents, however, who told me I really should have one. It wasn’t long before video and computer games had become every bit the nanny that television had been. My husband and I put the games away and told the kids they could only play on their birthdays. Birthdays then became the obsession. I was asked every day how long it would be until the next birthday. It was as though the games had become even more desirable!

More boys joined our family and they developed more friendships with game-playing boys. When the Nintendo Wii became popular, my fitness-loving husband and I decided that an active game system was okay. Before long, however, non-fitness games were added to our collection as was another game system. The kids found free games on the Internet and began playing with their homeschool friends online.

Tactics Tried

My husband and I tried numerous approaches to containing the time. Kids were only allowed to play after school and before dinner. Often my husband proclaimed game-free weeks or simply insisted they stop playing to go outside. But the problem seemed more complex than our rules.

For instance, we noticed that the kids had very little interest in doing much of anything else but games. Board games and other toys stayed on the shelves. When shooed outside, they counted the minutes until they could come back inside. Creative play had diminished.

The other problem was enforcing limits. As soon as we would declare a gaming hiatus, a neighbor boy would come over with his new game and his puppy dog eyes. When time was up, there was just one more level to complete. Or worse, one or more of the kids would claim they hadn’t gotten to play “at all.” There would be tears and frustration all around.

Having read PlayStation Nation, I recognized these signs of gaming addiction and they worried me. I sat with one of my Homeschool Homies this summer to discuss the problem. As a mother of four boys, she shared my concern.

Game Timers

I began researching devices to control game time for both our families’ benefit. Before I determined that these devices would not work for our situation (we have too many devices, for one thing!), I was shocked by the behavior of children of reviewers of these products. Parents recounted that their kids had learned to drop the timer device to reset it. Others had disconnected or even cut the cables! You can read the reviews of two of these game timers here and here.

It doesn’t take a psychologist to realize that the kids tampering with video game timers have more troubles than just a gaming addiction. My friend and I agreed that our kids would obey whatever approach we used, but we had to determine what that would be. My friend had successfully limited gaming time to weekends in the past, but had found (as I did) that gaming became an obsession when it was allowed.

A New Approach

On the way home from my talk with my friend, I had yet another discussion about gaming with the kids. They already knew why my husband and I were concerned. We shared with them that gaming could become so addictive that young men would forego employment and even marriage because they would rather play. They knew how gaming could keep them from learning and building relationships with one another. I discussed the timing devices I had looked at with them and they agreed with me that they wouldn’t work.

After much discussion, the kids proposed the plan that we have been using and LOVING. Before I tell you what they came up with, let me tell you the results of limiting screen time in our home (I say screen time, because my daughter prefers to watch television):

  • Listening to audio books again (in the middle of the day!)
  • More creative play (the dress up closet is getting a workout)
  • More physical activity (the kids are swimming and jumping and working out more)
  • More time playing board games
  • My daughter isn’t watching television at all
  • More time spent with guests doing just about anything BUT games
  • More arguing (yep, you read that right. This is the next problem to address!)

Here is the kids’ taming screen time plan and why I think it works:

  • Free screen time on Thursday evenings

(when Mom and Dad have activities outside the home; everyone can play for an extended period and they look forward to a “free night.”

  • Two hours of screen time per week

The kids put two circles representing two hours on our dry erase board in the kitchen. The circles are divided in halves, representing 30 minutes each. This is the part of the system I am most excited about. The kids have time to play during the week, but they are in control of it. When our children leave home, they will have to discipline themselves this way. This approach is the best training for adult life. The kids time themselves, mark the time themselves, and even police themselves. I’m still amazed.

  • Before using time, the majority must agree to use the time and how they will use it

Our oldest isn’t into gaming, so if three of the five of the kids want to use some of their time, they can play. They must also agree before starting who is going to play what and for how long. Otherwise, you end up with the, “I didn’t get to play” situation. The kids choose how to spend time, knowing they must be prepared for any guests during the week as well. Their typical approach lately is to play an hour on Tuesday and an hour on Saturday. Had I dictated to them when they could play, I doubt the plan would have worked as well.

  • The plan is communicated to friends

Most of their game-playing friends have been told about the new system and some of them have adopted a similar approach, which is great! Because I can’t control what happens in others’ houses, however, I don’t try to control game time elsewhere. It’s not a significant problem currently.

I know families who allow gaming only in the winter, only ten minutes a day (which makes it not fun), and families who don’t allow games at all. As a family who has them, we are thrilled with this approach that allows our kids to develop self-control.

What, if any, approach do you use to control screen time in your home?

 

read more
How to Find Time for Personal Devotions

How to Find Time for Personal Devotions

Open Bible with pen

One of the most common questions I get from young mothers is how to find time for personal devotions. We all know how vitally important it is for having the energy we need to do all that we do, but when you’re up multiple times feeding a baby, awakened early by a toddler, and even chased into the bathroom by your kids, how can you find the time?

I’ve been there. But I had very little distress about my devotional life during that particular season of motherhood (my youngest is now six). Here’s why:

I Redefined Personal Devotions

Is devotional time an hour spent in your quiet spot reading the Bible, completing in-depth Bible study assignments, and praying over every need in neatly organized categories? Sure, but devotions can take many different forms.

Having devotions can also mean taking minutes, seconds even, to connect with the Lord. It can mean meditating on just one Scripture throughout the day. It can mean talking to God out loud while your children observe you. “Help me!” may be all you manage to eek out. It can mean forgoing formal Bible study during this season of your life. It can mean reading a brief devotion online while going through email. Devotional time can be praying with your husband at bedtime. It can be singing or playing an instrument. It can even be devotions that you share with your children. Susanna Wesley is said to have found time to pray by sitting amidst her children with her apron thrown over her head: Susanna Wesley (Women of Faith (Bethany House))

The best thing I can say to you tired, time-pressed mom is not to feel bad. The Lord knows you are in a season of your life that requires much of you. He is caring for you and hearing the Spirit groan for you on your behalf even when your lips aren’t moving.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans (Romans 8:26).

But What if You are Desperate for More Time?

  • Ask for help. Ask your husband to give you some time so you can read the Bible and pray alone. I hired our niece to come and help out one afternoon a week. A moms’ Bible study group I was in often hired sitters so we could study and discuss God’s Word without interruption.
  • Pray about it. Ask the Lord to give you more time with Him. He may get you up early, but not the littles! I firmly believe that He answers these prayers–just not always the way we expect.
  • Be content. I used to be frustrated that I couldn’t do more of the reading and studying I wanted to do. Now I have more time and I wonder what I fussed about. Even now, though, busy as I am, I pray and read one chapter of the Bible per day and then read Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on it. This process takes me just half an hour. The rest of my devotional time is spent with my family and church.

Do you have other advice for young moms looking for ways to spend time with the Lord?

read more
What I Want for My Birthday

What I Want for My Birthday

DebandAbigail
Today is my birthday and I don't mind telling you that I'm 44. In fact, I'm excited that I'm only 44, because I had it in my head that I was 45. So I have a bonus year now! 🙂

Because of a disappointing birthday or two, I am now very vocal about my birthday, often giving people weeks of warning and being very specific with my family about what I want! So because I consider you all my family, too, I am going to be very bold in telling you what I want for my birthday this year.

Last Sunday, some of our church members shared about their recent mission trip to Haiti. One woman told us that a six-year-old girl came up to her at church before the trip and slapped a ten dollar bill into her palm. The woman was confused until she was told that the little girl had asked for money for her birthday to give to poor people. I was honestly taken aback. That little girl, whoever she is, can't possibly have all that I have. I'm so blessed with material things that people have no idea what to get me for my birthday.

So if you'd like to give me something for my birthday (and seriously, why wouldn't you??), this is what I want. Consider sponsoring a child through World Vision. My dear friend, Deb, is in Bolivia, South America (I add the continent in case you're as geographically challenged as I am) with World Vision to see and write about the amazing work that ministry is doing there. For a little more than a dollar a day, you can change a child's life forever. Now you might be thinking that I'm not worth $35 a month, but certainly you have to agree that those children are!

I know some of you who are reading honestly cannot afford such an extravagant gift for me. Could you join with other friends and family members? If seven of you spent just $5 a month, you could adopt a child through World Vision and you'd really make my day! If you can't spend anything on a gift, then please honor me with the gift of prayer. Pray that God would raise up sponsors for the children of Bolivia and follow Deb's journey through Counting My Blessings. If you CAN sponsor a child, please click through the link on Deb's blog.

Thank you for reading! That's a wonderful birthday gift, too.

read more

Pin It on Pinterest