Managing Screen Time for Kids

Managing Computer Time

After mentioning the fact that our children are required to quote their weekly memory verses before checking out our iPad, I received some questions from readers as to whether that rule applies for other electronics, as well, and how we go about monitoring our all children’s screen time.

The answer is, yes, they have to quote the week’s Bible verse to check out smart phones and laptops, as well as tablets. Over the years, we’ve tried several different ways to limit the time our children spend in front of screens of any sort (including television and video players, back when we owned those).

Life is too short to spend glued to a computer screen. There are just too many tech-free things they’d miss out on, otherwise.

Our family doesn’t have a TV any more, but we do own several laptops, iPhones, and iPads. Nevertheless, we don’t allow our children to have unlimited access to any of these until after they graduate high school (although we relax the phone rule a little once they are driving and/or have a job).

When they are grown and gone, our kids will have to decide for themselves how, when, and where they’ll use electronic media. Until then, it’s our responsibility to offer guidelines and boundaries… so even after they’ve asked permission and recited their verses, we still want to know:

  • WHAT they do

    We try to steer them toward educational games like math drills, spelling and vocabulary games, and logic, memory, or problem solving games. But even with the “good stuff,” the key is moderation. Our older kids also enjoy looking up recipes and craft ideas on Pinterest and pulling up sheet music to work on at home. Our little guys like to look up instructions for building Lego creations or making stop-action Lego movies.

  • WHEN they do it

    The rule is, no screen time until the day’s schoolwork and chores are complete (unless the computer is needed for an assignment, such as Driver’s Ed). But we’ll be the first to admit that the making of the rule is much easier than the enforcement of it! We’re trying to be more consistent with that in the New Year!

  • WHERE they do it

    This one was easy before the advent of wireless Internet — everybody had to plug in Mom’s desk in the den whenever they needed to get online. Now that we have wireless, every child could hole up in a different corner of the house for hours on end, and we’d never see one another if we didn’t establish some boundaries. The main rule for our kids-who’ve-not-yet-graduated is that they must stay in common areas of the house (kitchen, den, or dining) whenever they are online. That way, everybody in the family can see what they’re up to.

  • HOW LONG they do it

    We’ve tried lots of different things to help curb excessive computer use, including setting timers, keeping time logs, and earning screen time through physical exercise. Probably the most effective system we’ve tried to date is linking time allowed on the computer to time spent reading.

My husband often reminds me that many of the problems we face with digital media today were non-existent when we first started our family. So we’re kind of having to learn as we go. Whenever we hit on something that helps, I try to share it with you… but I’d love for you to return the favor. What do you do to manage screen time at your house?

If you’re serious about reducing the amount of time your kids spend staring at screens, you also need to provide some attractive alternatives. For some great ideas for doing just that, check out our new Family Fun Bundle.

Family Fun Bundle

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  1. I’m just starting out with family and my wife and I have a 5 month old and praying for wisdom, guidance to God, to enjoy everything God created, live life as God intended us to live it and life it to the fullest. But we need soo much guidance and wisdom, we don’t even know where to start.

  2. We use the Accountable Kids program. Basically I create a group of chores for morning, daytime and evening. When each group is done, the child earns a ticket. The ticket is redeemable for a certain amount of screen time. Our 7 almost 8 year old gets 20 minutes per ticket. The 3 almost 4 year old gets 15 minutes per ticket, no consecutives. No using tickets until after school work done, no using more than 2 tickets consecutively. The boys love it. It doesn’t help the WHAT they do. They just want to do Minecraft, Lego Star Wars and Clash of Clans. I’m not terribly opposed to those so that’s what they do. It’s mostly play. We do learning apps at other times together sometimes and that is free.

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