Friday, 30 October 2015

Screentime Sanity

Screentime privileges are a constant source of tension in our house.  They are the biggest source of tantrums, demands and aggression.  I'm starting to have more sympathy for my parents and their occasional decisions to eliminate television entirely.

Recently, we've got to a limited access model.  Each child gets a predetermined number of 30 minute slots per day.  On a school day, one before school, one after school and one after supper.  On weekends, an additional one in midafternoon.  Our hope was to stop the frequent "I don't want to go anywhere because I'd rather play iPad" tantrums.  Thus far, not entirely successful.

The slots have to be "earned" by doing chores or other activities (like homework).  This is another source of tension, particularly for Nathan.  He often spends his pre-screen time playing and then gets very upset when it arrives and he hasn't "earned" it.  We've tried giving him warnings and prompts but he just doesn't have the impulse control to regulate himself.

Alex earns his by following instructions without complaining.  He's improved a lot here but it's still a challenge.  He gets two warnings before losing it.  We have little cards with Elsa from Frozen on them which say "Remember to listen".  If Elsa covers screentime, no screentime.

Lately we've had an additional challenge.  Nathan is so obsessed about his screentime that he's refusing to leave to visit the bathroom if he needs to.  So we had to revoke his screentime for 3 days to remind him that bathroom takes priority over screentime.

I know the regulations only make screentime more prized, the forbidden fruit.  But it devolves into total chaos if we allow unlimited time.  We get screaming tantrums which can last over an hour because we've dared to interrupt six hours of watching YouTube videos to serve supper.  I really don't see any way around this.  Kids don't have good impulse control (that's why they're kids) and television, iPad and computers are all designed to be powerful lures.  I can't really expect the boys to self-regulate and I'm reluctant to get rid of the screentime entirely when it is a powerful motivator for their behaviour.

I guess it means I just have to resign myself to tantrums and challenges.

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