How I Realized that I Needed to Limit Screen Time for My Kids

I don’t want to admit it, but I know that I have become the mom who lets her children have too much screen time. You know, when she gets busy cleaning or planning or cooking or whatever and decides that while she gets these things done, and in order to be able to get these things done the kids can watch a movie or play games on the tablet or whatever device to “keep them busy.”

limit screen time

I did it. I was there. This is how I know: the kids whined and complained ALL.THE.TIME., they weren’t happy with turning off any show (even if I gave them fair warning), there was a lot of disobedience, bedtime became difficult, they were always hungry (bored is more like it), and I was angry and irritable.

It was very easy for me to go from “harmless” intentional screen limits to a nonchalant and permissive attitude. “Sure you can watch a show, I need to catch up on dishes.” “Okay, let’s do a movie night, I need to fold laundry.” “Alright, you can play games on the tablet, I need to pay bills anyway.”

I don’t have an issue with my kids watching shows or movies but I do have a problem when their eyes are glued to a screen all day, every day. (They really didn’t watch all day, every day… but it felt like it.) And I knew that I didn’t want them to have access whenever they asked. I had actually used TV as a reward if my daughter was ready for her day on time. She could watch one show before we started school, and that was usually it for the day.

But then quiet time came and they were behaving well, why not allow them more TV while I am on the computer doing work in the afternoon? Then, they were quiet and occupied while I cooked dinner. But as I became more lax, and this became more than an occasional occurrence, I knew I wasn’t doing the right thing. I knew they were getting too much screen time.

I started brainstorming how I was going to get out of this, because it was great to have time to myself, but I knew this was such a very bad habit that I had allowed. I talked to a couple of friends. One recognized too much screen time in her home and implemented no screens because she was just so sick of her children’s behavior. Another friend revealed that she’s had days like mine where she’ll allow screen time for her kids so she can get some of her work done. She also mentioned that they have certain times they allow screens. To really kick me into gear was another blogger who I regularly read. She is currently doing a series in the month of October called 31 Days of Screen Free Activities for Kids.

It was quite convicting to see this series just as I had been contemplating what I would be doing to quit all this screen time nonsense. Rosilind has come up with an amazing list of things you can do with your kiddos – check it out! Seriously, this could not have come at a better time.

After seeing what other mommas have been through and what they do in regards to screen time, I have come up with screen time rules in our house. Well, a screen time schedule, I suppose. This is what it looks like in our house right now: Wednesdays are Kid Movie nights, Friday afternoons each child may choose one show and they can watch those 2 shows together, the weekend allows each child 30 minutes of time on the tablet. That’s it!

Yes, only 3 opportunities are built in for screen time. And to explain a little, Wednesday nights are movie nights because we host an informal Bible study and they can look forward to this “event” and be occupied in the other room. We will occasionally say “let’s have a family movie night” which is a great surprise for them, obviously not on days that behavior was an issue. And I will occasionally have a specific educational game available for school lessons that they can do for 10-15 minutes on the computer or tablet. But not yet. I don’t want to give too many exceptions, I just can’t.

My reasons for the “schedule” are: that it is too easy to become lax, it gives a sense of consistency, and it seems to be just the right amount that the kids look forward to the screen time but not seem to want more. I have a feeling that a lot of behavior issues for my 5 year old are not only because I allowed so much screen time but because there was a lack of regularity and consistency in day to day life. We have been all over the place and I can see how it’s hard to know what mom expects if things are always changing. But that’s for another post.

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We are in week 2 since the addition of the screen time schedule and I have already seen an improvement in behavior, manners, imagination, desire to be helpful, and kindness. The kids have been perfectly fine with the rules and I have had no complaining about the rules. There are times when my daughter asks to watch something but she’s totally okay when I tell her to remember it for when she gets screen time. They have been playing very well with each other. I “caught” Elle reading a book to Finn this morning, it was so lovely to see. Several times I’ve seen them take dolls or stuffed animals on adventures. It didn’t take too long for them to figure out what they could do to keep busy and play.

How is screen time limited in your home?