Let’s Talk About Screen Time

Jack has grown up to be quite the video game kid. If left to his own devices (pun intended), he’d spend the entire day/weekend/week/month alternating between his video games, watching YouTubers talk about video games and maybe throw in a Netflix episode of something video game related, like Pokemon. It’s ALL video games, except when he’s building something with LEGOS (which may also be Minecraft related…)

For the past few years of Jack’s life, this was totally fine. We figured he has a super regimented week with before-care, school and after-care. So the kid deserves to go wild on the weekends.

But then, probably about 3 months ago or so… the attitude started happening.

We would notice that after a bunch of screen time – whether it be watching Netflix, YouTube, or playing games – the kid would act like a total brat!

So, we decided to start limiting screen time.

But, where to begin? I started googling around and found that the ‘recommended’ amount of screen time for kids aged 8 – 18 is a maximum of two hours per day. Since some of Jack’s screen time is doing stuff that we feel is ‘beneficial’ such as reading prompts from Pokemon or Minecraft and problem solving by building actual video game levels in Mario Maker, we came to a compromise that seems to have been working for our family.

Here’s what we’ve been doing:

Each day, Jack can have 2 hours of screen time.

However, on weekdays if we get any behavior notes, that amount will be reduced or canceled altogether.

On weekends, he starts with a bank of 2 hours screen time per day. However, he also gets chores. There is a list of ‘must do’ chores (homework, cleaning up after himself, some help around the house). But then, there is also a list of ‘can do’ chores. Any chores on the ‘can do’ list are fully optional and if he does them, the amount of minutes spent on the chore can be added to his screen time allowance.

I can’t even believe how well this has been working for us. Halfway through Saturday, Jack has typically used up one hour of screen time and starts begging to do extra chores.  He will even suggest chores, like “can I please, please clean up the entire playroom by myself” and “mommy, do you need your car to be vacuumed?”

It. Is. Awesome.

He also has been more strategic about how he uses his screen time. So rather than staring at the television like a dead-eyed robot, he’s building levels for Daddy to play or working on a Minecraft build. I feel like now that screen time is limited, he’s enjoying it more.

Sure, there are days where he sighs loudly in every room of the house talking about how bored he is. There are also days when mommy needs a full-on break, so it’s free screen time for as long as it takes. But mostly there is a huge improvement in attitude.

And the house is sparkling!

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