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for those who DO limit screen time ...

post #1 of 47
Thread Starter 
i'm REALLY not interested in debating whether screen time should or should not be limited. it's something i've been struggling with for a long time and i understand the reasons for unlimited screen time and even agree with many of them. but i don't want this discussion to turn into that debate, because i have a more focused question.

i'm wondering, for unschoolers who DO limit screen time, how do you do it? especially if you lean toward the radical/whole life unschooling end of things in the rest of your life. what does limited screen time look like in your house? a time limit? one show or movie/day?

my DD is 4.5, and for a long time we had a "one thing a day" guideline - we didn't even call it a rule; she didn't have an issue with it, it all worked out. sometimes her one thing was a 20 minute show, and sometimes it was a 90 minute movie, and it was all good.

but lately it has crept up, and i have experimented w/no restricting, changing the restrictions, and i KNOW it's been very inconsistent and confusing to her. when there are restrictions, i feel like we're arguing about "watching" all the time, which i hate. but if i have no restrictions, she'll watch the same full length movie three times in a row. (that's not a hypothetical.) and i'm just not okay with that at her age. (also, she doesn't ever want to watch alone, she wants us to be with her while she watches.)

she doesn't watch broadcast TV, so i don't have the issue of one show running into another, thankfully. we have some movies, some things recorded on the DVR, and she picks things up from the library. and she's not really interested in the computer, aside from the occasional YouTube video

so, what does limited screen time look like in your unschooling house?
post #2 of 47
We limit screen time in our unschooling family as well. What works well for us is to have screen time first thing in the day until breakfast is cooked. This leaves some room for flexibility since sometimes the kids are up at 6 but sometimes not til 8, and I try to leave a reasonable amount of time (30-60 minutes) before we sit down to eat together. Every now and then we'll have a family movie night during supper, or if it's been a tiring day we'll all sit and watch a show in the afternoon but they don't have the expectation for screen time after breakfast and I think that helps us to avoid arguments.

ETA: Oh, and for us, screen time is TV, computer, or video games and they're free to choose whichever as long as nobody else is using it already.
post #3 of 47
My kids are 4.5 and 2. I started allowing my son to watch documentary dvds when I was putting the baby down for a nap. Otherwise he wanted to lay down on the bed with us (and usually nurse) and that kept her from falling asleep.

If we limit screen time (dvds or youtube) to naptime, he lives with it and doesn't ask for more most of the time. Where we get into issues is when I let him watch it at a time other than naptime. Then he starts asking for it all the time. I try to limit him to about an hour a day. He's really into youtube cake decorating right now. To support that interest we just made these http://www.amazon.com/Wilton-Animal-...3269977&sr=8-4 He can tell you so much about cake decorating, which I think is great, but he can get obsessive about watching "Lee Hanson with Betty Crocker kitchens." I have concerns about how much screen time is taking away from creative playtime.

I am currently reading this book: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/046...ef=oss_product

It's a comprehensive look at research surrounding the effects of screen time on young children (birth to 5.) It looks like the studies claiming a connection between screen time and ADHD aren't very good. However, the big problem with TV that I'm reading about has to do with pretend play time. There is a huge reduction in how much pretend play young kids who have screen time do. Even if the TV is on as background noise. The chapter I'm reading right now is the negative impact of scary stuff on little kids. I'm finding it really interesting and wonder if there is a book like this about the impact of screen time on older kids.
post #4 of 47
We limit when I get sick of everyone on and send them outside or off to play something else or engage them in something.
post #5 of 47
if you watch it with her once, but refuse to watch it multiple times - would that work? She may only want to watch it once if she does so alone.

Have you tried diverting her to other activities - "yes, I will watch it with you...but then I am going to make a cake - you can help if you like!"


Edited to add: I think role modelling is crucial, and, if you go down the limiting road, only fair - are your screen habits reasonable? I
post #6 of 47
We tried the unlimited screen time thing for a long time, hoping that it would get better. It didn't, and it was just not good in our family. I hated feeling like we were arguing over "one more" all the time, lots of tantrums and just crankiness all around (I think screen time really affects DS's behavior/mood in a negative way).

The way we finally got away from it without any outcry over it was to move across the country and never unpack our tv We've been a month and a half without it and it has been great. DH and I don't watch it either even after the kids are in bed. DS did ask about it a few times in the first couple of weeks but not anymore, and I've noticed a huge change in the way he plays (much more independent creative play, long involved stories, creating new games and situations, etc.).

At some point we do plan to unpack it and were thinking of doing family movie nights, maybe a couple of times a month or once a week? We're not sure. We're kind of afraid of going back to the constant desire to watch tv if we open that door again, kwim? But I'm also hopeful that if we make it a special part of our routine and make it a big family event that it can be a really nice family time together. I'm not sure what we'll do at that point if he's wanting to watch more frequently than that.
post #7 of 47
What it looks like for us:

- We don't have TV reception of any sort (cable, rabbit ears, nothing) so the only thing we can watch are DVDs and VHS tapes.

- I put the TV in the closet for the summer. It does get dragged out again sometimes (in fact it's out again right now - my folks recently came to visit and brought some DVDs as presents). DH doesn't care about limiting screen time, it's just me. I tend to relax more about it in the winter.

- We don't buy videos ourselves, ever. We do not have a huge collection of movies. Grandparents do buy DVDs for DD though. However, DVDs have a fairly short lifespan because they get scratched. This both relieves me and annoys me to no end, if you follow me.

- During the colder months, DD picks out a video at the library once a week. (Actually, now that I think about it, it's usually 2 videos). If she's going to be watching videos, I actually prefer that she rewatches them rather than getting continously new programming. When she rewatches them, she has the opportunity to get more out of the story, to notice different details, think about the plot, etc. - as opposed to it just being the beta wave of the moment. (Or is it alpha wave?). So she will watch her videos several times during the first few days she gets them, then gets bored of them toward the end of the week, so her watching naturally declines for part of the week.

DH did introduce her to video games on Nick Jr's website on the computer. I'm not thrilled (on multiple levels) but he's her parent too. We don't have specific limitations on computer time but since she uses my computer, she'll ask if she can play games and I generally say no I usually only say yes when DH and I need to do some serious housework (like cleaning for company) or if we need to have a serious discussion or other "alone time" type things. That works out to maybe 3 computer sessions a month, though admittedly they tend to last at least 1.5 hours for each session.

I have totally and utterly put my foot down on buying "educational electronics," a DVD player for the car, video game systems, etc. I risked confrontation and upset to do so. Mostly with my mother. DH wouldn't buy those things himself but he'd be fine if mom bought them for DD. (Strangely, he's fine not having TV programming. We never had it in all the years we've been together, ever, even before DD).

Other ideas:

- Only X programs a day
- Ticket system: child gets X tickets a week and "cashes" a ticket in to watch something or play a game
- Only between X and Y times, only after dark, only when daddy comes home, etc.

For me, putting the TV set AWAY is a really key thing. If it's out, it gets put on. If it's away, it gets forgotten. But our TV set is, I think 15 inches? It just gets stuffed into a closet. I know that's hard when your TV set is huge. It's the same set DH had as a kid, just an old CRT that still works fine.

And I do like the seasonal stuff - putting it away in summer just makes sense to me, there's so much to do in summer. And it saves me from having to be the gatekeeper.
post #8 of 47
These are really helpful ideas.

Right now I have pregnancy nausea so I am letting the kids have more sceentime than usual. My 6yo son has mood issues associated with screentime.....I am thinking about trying where he can pick out 2 dvds a week from the library after I feel better. Computer games are another issue...right now he can only do them on Sunday afternoon during family naptime (he does not need one) because it was all he talked about before. Our whole family seems to do better (with emotions, creativity, behavior) with zero to small amounts of screen time at this point.
post #9 of 47
I'm not really sure we're unschoolers (we probably won't be purely unschool-y) but I really need to subscribe to this thread...

Right now we're only minorly restrictive on TV watching - and our tv is on an embarrassingly high number of hours a week. Like it makes my head hurt to think about it. And i admit, it's pretty much all for *my* benefit (they like it, but I let them do it because it buys me alone time - i'm using the TV as a babysitter which I'm not happy with myself about, but I've been having some health issues...) Anyway, my kids don't appear to self regulate on this. I can count on my hand the number of times in my nearly 5 years as a parent that a child asked to have the TV turned off. I'm on all the ideas here.
post #10 of 47
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by SundayCrepes View Post
thanks for the recommendation! i just requested it from the library.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kathymuggle View Post
if you watch it with her once, but refuse to watch it multiple times - would that work? She may only want to watch it once if she does so alone.

Have you tried diverting her to other activities - "yes, I will watch it with you...but then I am going to make a cake - you can help if you like!"

Edited to add: I think role modelling is crucial, and, if you go down the limiting road, only fair - are your screen habits reasonable? I
ITA about modeling. DH and i only watch TV on weekends after the kids are in bed. i work from home, so she sees me on the computer, but it's usually a very non-stimulating Word document and only when DH is home to play with her. i only randomly internet surf when she is watching something. otherwise, i'm 100% hers to engage with. she knows that.

i have tried diverting to other activities - but if she's interested, she'll just say, "Yeah, let's do that after I'm done watching!" also, i want to be careful not to get into cruise director mode, always suggesting the next activity. i think some of the best stuff with kids comes when they have time to think, hmmm .... what should i do next ... i know, i'll build a rocket out of toilet paper tubes! or whatever. i see her automatic I Have Nothing to Do default becoming the TV.

i could get rid of the TV, myself, but i won't for DH's sake. he only has one interest outside of our family, and that's baseball. he has given up watching the games like he used to, since the kids are here now, and he waits until the kids are in bed, but then he really unwinds to the sports news. even in the off-season he'll watch "classic" games. (this cracks me up - there are reruns of sports events!)

i will try just not staying with her as much when she's watching. i'm going to HAVE to do this as the baby gets bigger (he's 4 months) and can't just be pointed away from the TV. i don't want him to be one year old and watching movies with her. if he took naps in good chunks, baby's naptime could be a good way to limit her watching, but he's still taking bunches of tiny naps all through the day in a baby carrier.

anyway, thanks for all the input, and keep the ideas coming. it seems like a lot of us grapple with this!
post #11 of 47
We live a pretty radical unschooling type of life. Zayla does what she wants and when for the most part. We're lax about food, bedtimes, chores, her appearance, and all that stuff. I do limit screen time though. I'm not sure that she realizes I do, but I do.

I didn't let her watch any tv until she was preschool age. And even then it was only when we were sick or desperate for sleep or something. So it isn't a habit that she's really used to and I think that helps a lot to avoid tv battles. By age five it was one thing a day. She can watch one episode of something (30 min) or she can play on the computer until the battery dies on her (about an hour). But only one or the other, not both.

I am a single mom so there are occasional exceptions to the rule, and if I'm sick or something she can watch up to two hours (which she never wants to anyways, she can't sit still for that long). But most days we're actually so busy with chores, school, classes, and life that the whole day goes by with no screen time and she doesn't miss it at all.

Somewhere in the 8-11 age range I'll let her take over her screen time. Then see what happens and go from there.
post #12 of 47
We're a radically unschooling family but in the past we've recognized problems with screen time and my kids have come up with different creative ways of limiting it. We've used a "no screen time until after supper" and "no screen time until the music practicing is done" rule. We've had limits of various times per day, or so many half-hour coupons (or tick-marks) per week.

The system that seemed to best address my own kids' difficulties managing screen time was simply to have them declare before sitting down in front of a screen how long they were going to stay there. After that time was up, they needed at least a half-hour break before returning. Technically they were entitled to sit down in front of the computer in the morning and say "I'm going to stay here until 1 a.m.." But that never happened; they set very reasonable times. Their problem wasn't that they wanted to spend 12 hours a day on the computer, it was that once they got settled in they struggled with the motivation required to make the transition to something else. With gentle parental enforcement of their own limits, they could transition away, and often wouldn't return for a long time.

Miranda
post #13 of 47
Kids are 6.5 and almost 4 (also a small baby).

For a while, it was just 1 hr per kid per day (we have a laptop, so their options are: games, websites, hulu, and netflix). They could share their hours if they wanted to (so each kid was watching a total of 2 hours). When we moved at the beginning of the summer, I essentially revoked their laptop privileges on the grounds that IT'S SUMMER! and there will be plenty of time to watch/play games when the weather is bitter cold. They balked for a little while, then got used to it. What has really helped is that we have quite a variety of other activities for them to do, in addition to their own invented games and activities. We also sometimes talk about the negative effects of too much screen time that they've actually experienced (and I sympathetically pointed out to them while they were experiencing those effects)- such as the grumpy, sludgy feeling and fuzzy brain. They also tend to fight a lot more and have a harder time thinking about other activities when they've spent too much time at a screen.

I'm not getting much sleep at night, so I'm sleeping in more. So, they're getting more screen time because they both usually wake sooner than I. But, they are used to being limited that there's rarely any argument (I also give them 5-minute warnings or allow them to finish the show if it's not too long) if I "kick the off".

Another thing- when I tell my kids to get off the laptop, and they complain about being bored, I DON'T give them ideas about what else they could do. Instead I sympathize. I think this expression "I'm bored" is more of a communication of their disappointment in regard to having to be off the laptop. After processing that disappointment, then I'll offer suggestions if they're genuinely having a hard time thinking of something and honestly looking for ideas. They rarely accept my ideas, but usually one of my ideas will spark a different idea that they like.

moominmama's idea is pretty cool, IMO. I'd also consider buying a cheap kitchen timer to use. It's harder to argue with a loud "ding" than mama, especially if the tone is set early with a response like an excited, "oh there's the timer! let's go do x,y,z!"
post #14 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by KimProbable View Post
We limit screen time in our unschooling family as well. What works well for us is to have screen time first thing in the day until breakfast is cooked.
That's interesting. For us it's the exact opposite. I was concerned with ds' computer/tv/video game obsession and his lack of interest in other activities. We just moved to no screen time when we first get out of bed. If he starts his day with it, he gets mentally stuck, like he can't think of anything else interesting to do. But if we are engaged and active right from the morning, he's excited about everything we do and often forgets to even ask to play/watch all day. So I don't have to limit the time he spends on it, and we are both happy. He's not bored; I'm not irritated. Win/win.
post #15 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by Qalliope View Post
We just moved to no screen time when we first get out of bed.
I was at a conference recently where Mary Sheedy Kurcinka talked about screen time not being good for first thing in the day because it's a "red" activity (stimulating, raising adrenaline etc.). For our family, though, it seems to work. We all roll out of bed at different times and do our screen time and then come together during breakfast. I don't see the kids as being worked up because of it and they go on to have all sorts of wonderful imaginative play throughout the rest of the day. Which is totally not to say that it should be like that for your family, just that it's what our experience currently is!
post #16 of 47
We are just crawling out of the year we spent being unlimited with screen stuff. It truly just ended up that the three of them stared at the tv, then played vid games, then tv again, and I surfed online the whole time, stuck in a depression and increasing my stress by worrying about our health as I surfed Traditional Foods! Teyd game al day, fight, cry, forget to eat, have no clue it was late at night and they'd ben playing since morning. It sucked for all.

Before our unlimited year we aimed for balance. but I felt like I was being mean, or deluding myself that I was truly respecting them if I limited their actions. (I'd been reading lots of RU stuff and talking to RUers IRL). but it just didn't fit or work for us. and i think another way can work too. so we moved back to balance.

Now we are back to what we did before, which is that we limit screen stuff, in a vague, flexible way. In our house 'rules' do not work, because none of us remember to enforce them and different situations blow any rules out of the water. but what we did learn in our unlimited year, was that screen first-thing in the AM means the day will suck. and they'll want more screen, and me too. so I stated 'no more tv/computer first thing'. and that has actually translated into 'only when your siblings are up, they'll want to watch it with you'. this matters because we do not have cable, rabbit ears, whatever. anything they watch is on dvd from the store/library. if one kid wakes to find they're halfway through a movie, they're not happy. so we wait.

and yeah, we've mentioned One movie a day sort of rules, so they know to turn it off when i ask because they've watched the one.

So I'm usually up first, and i make myself NOT go online. I hang up laundry, I knit, I get my own head together for the day. And I put on music. As they arise, because I am not ignoring them online, they interact, and usually pick up whatever they were doing yesterday. reading, building, etc then I make pancakes (in our unlimited year we all ate whatever we felt like, when we felt like it, again, chaos reigned and no one felt peace) if they wish, or toast and sausages. then we look at our day. do we need to be somewhere? no, then they'll likely want to watch and that's fine. one show/movie whatever.

I guess my point is, I did not place big rules on them or me, but rather just try to steer them and myself in another direction. but if they ask me I don't say no, I say yes, and maybe it's not right now, but it will happen. maybe we're going out this morning, so the yes is for when we get back. kwim?

It's that dance of remembering to be respectful and not hold the power, but to keep the goal in mind of offerring more, or other options. I DO think watching/gaming all day is lame and not right for them. That is based on my exp as a child and adult, and on my exp of them when we did unlimited time. What do we base our decisions on if not our own experiences and instincts?

When my kids were like your DD, which they were when we were unlimited, in that over-and-over-again way, I just finally stepped in and said once a day or something. they needed that outside push from me to get them to remember all the things they liked to do before tv sucked them in. and I was there ready to facilitatec something else if they showed any interest. but it took saying No More to get them to *see* the rest of the world.

we talk a lot about balance. of food. of activity. that cookies rock, but we need other stuff too. for sure, have another cookie. but think about balance. to me, I'm not ruling their lives, but I am guiding them based on my experience as someone who's been around awhile. it doesn't harm our relationship, we are not fighting, I am not giving them something to defy. to me it just makes sense. this is why they have parents, kwim?


For us I think it's the combination of a) not having cable, nor school exposure to all the stuff on tv that tey *could* be watching (ditto computer games) and b) that we say yes most of the time to screen stuff, so it's not a treat or sacred thing. It just has a time and a place. yes, after breakfast. yes, once we're home from soccer, etc. or sure, we're home for the morning. then we shut it off after. I don't feel horrid about doing it this way because they see it in the greater context of how our family and house runs. balance.
post #17 of 47
i have been told that we can't possibly be true unschoolers because my children don't get any screen time. we don't have a television, and spend very little time online, except lately, as i am in the throes of first trimester fatigue. we listen to and play music, dance, play loads of games, make art, play outside, all sorts of things, but we don't watch tv or play video games. screen time just isn't part of our family culture. my kids will occasionally pick out a dvd at the library to watch on the computer, and i have placed no restrictions on that, but we maybe watch 3-4 a month, and usually only during the cold weather. i don't feel it's limiting them to stay within the confines of your family culture, i think it would really only get iffy if you were taking lots of screen time for yourself, watching your shows or playing games, watching youtube, etc and telling your children they weren't entitled to the same choices.
post #18 of 47
We also don't have a tv, so we only watch movies on the computer. Our rule is no more than two movies/day. One during the day, after breakfast - which lets us focus on spending time together first thing at breakfast, and then lets me get myself together a little right after while they watch.

I'd like our rule to be one movie per day, but my husband sometimes likes to watch one with DD in the evening after work. So, if the day has gone well, she sometimes watches a second movie in the evening with DH. The movies are usually about an hour long, so about two hours a day.

DD is 3, so anytime something reminds her of a movie - a song, a picture book, or a new object she learned about in a movie - the first thing she says is that she wants to watch her movie. I remind her we already watched a movie today and tell her we're not going to. She often throws a fit about it, but I just try to be firm and move on to something else. I'm hoping she'll outgrow that. She loves playing with her dollhouse/painting/reading/a million other things - she just doesn't remember that while she's throwing the fit.
post #19 of 47
One question to ask: is it LIMITING your children if something is not part of your lifestyle?

We don't have a boat - is it a LIMIT or a RULE that we don't do boating activities? No, we just don't have a boat.

Why isn't it the same for TV?

Well, I know why: because "everybody" has a TV. Still, it irks me, this concept that it's "deprivation" to not have TV, or candy, or whatever be part of your lifestyle. Everyone assumes there's huge control issues and so on - and maybe in some families there are. But there's no reason that a family without a TV can't just be - a family without a TV. No fights about it. No rules. No oppression. No limits. Just no TV.
post #20 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by laohaire View Post
One question to ask: is it LIMITING your children if something is not part of your lifestyle?

We don't have a boat - is it a LIMIT or a RULE that we don't do boating activities? No, we just don't have a boat.

Why isn't it the same for TV?

Well, I know why: because "everybody" has a TV. Still, it irks me, this concept that it's "deprivation" to not have TV, or candy, or whatever be part of your lifestyle. Everyone assumes there's huge control issues and so on - and maybe in some families there are. But there's no reason that a family without a TV can't just be - a family without a TV. No fights about it. No rules. No oppression. No limits. Just no TV.
yes, this.

i've heard the argument that my kids would love certain tv shows/video games, etc and i'm doing a great disservice to them and their education by "depriving" them of those experiences. it's not like a tool that i'm not allowing them to utilize, it's just not a tool we access at all.
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