Monday, May 20, 2013

Limiting Screen Time

Mercedes has always watched a rediculous amount of TV. She's the kind of kid who needs a lot of "chill time". She needs time to relax, to unwind, to give her brain a break, and she likes her privacy. Away from me, away from her sister. So her favorite thing to do when she's sad or sick or tired or anything but playful and perfectly happy is to lock herself in the TV room and watch show after show or movie after movie. I have tried to limit it as much as I can, but there are times when I let it go way too far...when we're sick, when Emerald is teething, when I haven't slept for more than 3 hours a night for 2 weeks straight. Recently we went through a 3 week cold/cough/flu (it was really nasty!) and I realized how bad the TV watching was getting. Mercedes did nothing but watch TV or whine about wanting to watch TV whole 3 weeks. It was affecting every second of every day of our lives. So I came up with these awesome Screen Time cards.

I let Mercedes pick out a cartoon picture of a TV on Google Images and then went into Microsoft word to create the cards. I cut them out and used clear contact paper to laminate them. Here's the idea: Each card is worth 15 minutes of screen time. This could be tablet, computer, TV or movie time. Each day she gets 1 1/2 hours worth and once the cards are gone, she's done watching TV for the day.

I also made a few "Bonus Cards" to reward her for having a good day, or for "emergency" days when she's sick or when I need to get some things done.

I used a tea box with a slit at the top and wrapped in shiny aluminum foil for her to slide her cards into each time she wants to use one.

I cut a hole in the back for me to get the cards out at the end of the day.

Pretty good system, huh? Well, I thought so. It did work for a couple weeks. But then the fussing continued. She'd use up all her screen time cards by lunch time and then whine about it for the rest of the day. Maybe she is too little for the cards, or maybe she's too smart for them or not smart enough, or maybe I didn't do a good enough job helping her to spread them out throughout the day. I think the cards are a great idea which is why I blogged about them, and I will probably try to implement them again when she gets a little older. 

I did find a solution to the screen time problem that has worked for us, and here it is: WE GOT RID OF THE TV. No joke. Eliminated it completely from our lives. Drastic? Yes. Affective? Completely. Simple solution? Yep. Healthy? Absolutely. The morning after we "threw the TV away" (stuffed it in the basement), Mercedes woke up and said, "can I watch...I mean, can I, can I, can I....we threw the TV away?" I said, "yep" and she asked, "can I read some stories?" I rejoiced silently at that question and told her she could read as many stories as she wanted, ALL DAY EVERY DAY if she wanted. And that's how it's been ever since. I rearranged her bedroom so she has a quiet, private, peaceful place to go for some chill time. She can read stories, color, do puzzles, listen to music, play with toys, whatever she wants to do and whenever she needs a break.

I'm thrilled that we've found a solution to the TV problem. Mercedes is a happier kid now that she spends more time reading and almost no screen time. We still have weekly family movie nights in the basement, and sometimes I let her watch a show on the computer while I make dinner, but that's it. After months of mommy guilt trying to figure out how to limit Mercedes' screen time, problem solved!

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