Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Screen Time

It may not come as a surprise to most, Dean being Matt's son and all, but he is totally addicted to the computer. He could seriously go all day without TV or Wii (though he likes them), but I take away computer privileges, it's pure torture for him. As of right now, I let him spend about 2.5 hours of total screen time per day, and most days that is 1/2 hour of curious george and the rest is computer.

First of all, I have some internal conflicts about how much time he should be spending on the computer/TV/Wii. Of the three, I think TV is mostly a useless time waster and I hate having it on during the day (I never, ever turn on the TV for myself until after the boys are down and I'm doing chores or taking a break). I love Curious George, so I don't mind that being on, and there are a few other good kid programs I can tolerate, and Dean only watches PBS or videos we get from the library. It is the easiest for me to cut off. The Wii doesn't have many redeeming qualities though it does get him to move on some games. The computer, however, has tons of educational games, computer skills are super imperative to have these days, and I have no doubt that he will be a "computer guy" (in some form, be it professional or not) like his dad. He can navigate the internet incredibly well for a 3 year old. He figured out how to find angry birds by sounding out and typing in a web search. I don't think he spelled it 100% correctly, but it was close enough that he could click on the top search and it was it.

Dean has never enjoyed playing with toys. Never. He has loved learning shapes, colors, numbers and letters, and scissors, and how to read,  but he never really plays with toys. By the time he was 2, he could sit and successfully use the mouse at a computer. He would much rather find someone with a phone that he can play with than play with cars or trains, etc. Once he started preschool, he learned how to play a little better, but it's still takes a lot of effort on my part.

A typical day in our house looks something like this:
  • The boys wake up between 5:40-6:15 am.
  • We run at 6:30 with the boys in a stroller.
  • We get home around 7:30 and make breakfast; Dean is already hounding me to turn on the computer.
  • I usually let him play while I clean up the kitchen and take a shower.
  • I try and get out of the house every morning by 9:30-10 either running errands, going to the library, the park, beach, or pool. If I don't, his screen time is used up very quickly and then I feel like I have to entertain Dean the rest of the day.
  • We usually get home around 11:30/12
  • We eat lunch and I put Walter down for a nap.
  • I read books to Dean and inevitable get crazy tired and start nodding off while reading the third book.
  • I'm so tired by then that I let him go play the computer (even if he's out of time) and I take a 1/2 hour nap or so.
  • He usually likes to save 1/2 hour of screen time for the afternoon when I'm making dinner, so I generally make him get off and I either play with him or have him help me with chores until Walt wakes up.
  • Dean, Walt, and I play until about 4.
  • I usually make dinner from 4-5 when I turn on TMBG's Here Come the 123's or ABC's for Walt and Dean uses his last 1/2 hour on computer. (It's really way too hot here right now for me to just send them outside to play.) We eat around 5.
  • After dinner I clean up and Matt either plays with the boys inside/outside or they watch him play his computer games.  When that runs out steam, Dean usually wants to get back on the computer.
  • We get them ready for bed a little before 7, we read books and whatnot and have them in bed with the lights out between 7:15-7:30 most nights. Some times it's 8, but I don't like those nights because it really only buys me about 15 min. in the morning, if that.

I feel like it's a constant battle of trying to limit the time. If I don't have something concrete, he naturally gravitates back to my computer and I either give in or force him off again.  Then you add in friend time and it seems as though most play dates at other kids' homes result in playing wii.  I'm not sure where I'm going with this, but what I want to know is, if you limit screen time, what do your kids do during the day? Do they mostly play on their own, or do they require a lot of individual time with you? Do you have lots of structured activities? Was it different with your first child than your subsequent children? It bothers me sometimes how much he's on, but I'm also wondering what more/differently I need or could do. Even at the library now they have computers in the kids' section and that's all Dean wants to do while there. It's a library! Aren't we trying to get kids to step away from computers and look at a book for heaven's sake?  I have to admit, I let him play while I choose books most days because it then means I only have to wrangle one child while filling my bag.

It's so foreign to me because I didn't ever really play nintendo or atari, or the computer growing up. There were periods in my life where we had no cable. But I was also the 6th child, so I had a lot of siblings to watch, play with, and copy.  I read and played the piano a lot, but I don't have many memories of being pre-literate. And then there's Matt. It's hard for me to say to my kids, "It's not good for you to sit on the computer all day" because that is what Matt does the vast majority of his day every day.  Blah. I just don't have the answer on this.


FoxyJ said...

Like you, I didn't grow up with video games or much TV, so figuring out how to regulate it with my kids is hard. So much depends on the kid; my oldest could watch TV all day if I let her, but my second one only likes a little bit of TV. However, they recently discovered the world of Club Penguin on the internet and they both could spend all day on it. This summer I have been pretty strict about screen time. They have a routine in the morning that we have to do before screen time, and they only get an hour a day. But, they are 5 and 7 and so they do a little better on filling their time without computer/TV. They play with each other, play with toys, have friends over, play with the sprinkler outside, do arts and crafts, read, and so on.

Have you tried any building toys with him? My son really likes both Duplo and Trio building sets and plays with them much more than pretend stuff like trains or cars. He also really likes coloring books, craft things like sticky foam mosaic pictures or dot-to-dot books, and playing with Play Doh. I don't know if any of this is helpful, but I know that with my one kid who really likes TV (and is old enough to turn it on herself) I've had to just be strict about it, even if it's harder for me to deal with.

AmyJane said...

This is a hard one. It really is, and thre's not one right answer for every family. At my house, each child has two TV tokens and two screen time tokens (Wii/iTouch/Computer). Each is worth 1/2 hour, so a total of 2 hours. When they're gone, they're gone. If anyone pesters me for more screen time, they start losing the next day's tokens.
Some of this possible is a first child thing. As they get older and play more and more together, I find that I need less and less screen time to keep them busy. And yes, some of it in disciplining ourselves to model well--lately I've been recommiting myself to only being online for absolute necessities (i.e. looking up the pediatricians phone number, not so much facebook) when the kids are awake. It's hard, but if they see me at the computer all day, why wouldn't they want to be? Limiting my TV time isn't as hard for me, but it's made a difference.

mad white woman said...

I hate (HATE!) video games. But computer games, especially the educational kids games, seem so much less harmful (if you can even call video games harmful, ha ha). I definitely think it's good to teach the little ones how to navigate the computer. Clara showed my 36 year old sister how to navigate her new smart phone. But, I also think it's good of you to limit the time. Clara has no problem playing by herself. She loves to look at books and "read" them, will cook in her kitchen, play with playdough, etc., etc. With that said, I think a lot of the playing independently is a personality thing (she has a wicked imagination). If you have a child that doesn't play well on their own, I don't know if you can totally change that. If I'm not busy, we play games, I pretend with her, we read books etc. I have also tried to get her more involved with doing what I'm doing. If I'm cleaning, I give her things to do. If I'm cooking, I'll have her help. Even then, it's challenging more often than not to fill the day with activities other than tv/computer time. I try not to turn the TV on everyday. She gets a movie a few times a week, on average, for quiet time, but I try to save movies for when I'm really desperate for my own quiet time. ;) Oh, and summer makes it especially hard since it's blazing hot out and outdoor activities are often not feasible.

Sorry, I'm pretty sure that wasn't helpful one bit, just a few of my random thoughts. :)

Jessica Baird said...

So the same sister I mentioned in my last post has a little boy that is 8 and he is a super computer kid too. As far as I know she lets him buy computer time with chores that she needs done. So, depending on how much Dean wants to play you could try to teach him to wash doors/walls, fold laundry, set the table, load the dishwasher, etc. I for sure need more cleaning help when I'm pregnant, even if its at a learners level. And for everything he does he can earn computer time. That's what she does anyway. Its not too hot here to send our kids outside (you should try it here ;) and the girls like playing pretend together a lot and coloring. So they have a morning chore routine and get 1/2 hr of pbs show and then maybe an hourish of computer during "quiet time" if they want it, but a lot of days they'd rather color or just play together. Good luck!