How would you handle TV/screen time with this 6-year-old? - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 16 Old 02-22-2011, 05:18 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My son just turned 6.  We have a TV in our home, and Netflix (no cable), a computer with internet, and a PS3 (which we use as DVD player, Netflix streamer, and occasionally for games).  My son received a handheld game (DS) for Christmas.

 

If I didn't limit the use of these items, my son might never choose to do anything else.  We *do* limit them, however.  The problem is, he seems not only to lack the self-moderation to stop playing/watching on his own, he also lacks the self-control to stop when he's been told (in other words, you must come turn the TV off, take the game away, et cetera--it doesn't work to just set a timer, or call into the next room "time to stop" or whatever).  If you don't notice (or he thinks you haven't) he will always continue to watch/play until you stop him.  

 

Perhaps I'm being a tad harsh--I suppose sometimes he stops when simply told "it's time."  But often, he doesn't.  Rarely (but not never), he gets upset when it's time to stop.

 

He is the oldest of 3 kids (6, 4, 18 months) and I often feel exasperated by this behavior, as I feel like I have to "police" electronics with him, constantly setting and enforcing limits with him.

 

Right now, he is not allowed to play video games at all during the week, but earns marbles throughout the week which buy him time (5 minutes/marble, which usually equates to ~2-3 hours) which he can redeem on the weekend.  We don't watch TV on a daily basis, but it's not a set schedule--I mostly don't turn it on at home, but maybe they watch 1-2 20-minute shows per week.

 

 

So my dilemma is: the way we are doing things seems "high maintenance" to me right now, and it bothers me that he can't self-regulate a bit more.  So I guess that's my first question: "Should" a 6-year-old be able to do that?  Should I be able to say, "You can watch this show, and then you need to turn the TV off," and go off to another part of the house and expect that he will turn it off when the show is over?  I'm sometimes inclined to simplify this issue by just not allowing TV (or video games, or whatever) at all, but that feels overly controlling and rather un-moderate of me.  

 

I should mention: He's a developmentally normal 6-year-old.  He's very bright, academically advanced, and doesn't have any particular behavior problems at home or at school.  He would just choose to stare at a screen over just about every other activity in the world.

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#2 of 16 Old 02-22-2011, 07:04 PM
 
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"Should" a 6-year-old be able to do that?  Should I be able to say, "You can watch this show, and then you need to turn the TV off," and go off to another part of the house and expect that he will turn it off when the show is over?

 

I think that while yes there are (newly turned) 6yos who would be able to do that, a lot still wouldn't have the impulse control to not play *just a little bit more*.  In fact, sometimes even grown-ups have trouble calling it quits when they're doing something fun (um... thinking of the box of chocolates I just demolished)!  And the fact is that your particular 6yo has shown that he is not quite ready for that responsibility quite yet, so it seems like you will have to continue to check in on him when it's time to stop playing the game.

 

We are tv- and video game- free here, so I can't offer you any solid advice regarding managing screen-time, sorry mama.


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#3 of 16 Old 02-22-2011, 07:47 PM
 
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The ability to manage screen time is something that comes naturally to some and needs to be learned by others. I don't think that your ds is particularly behind on this one. 

 

One thing I see in your post is a lot of talk about when the screens are not allowed. Are there specific times when they are always allowed? When my kids started wanting to play video games and watch the occasional movie, we set up particular times for these activities so that they knew that I valued their desires. I also found that is was far easier to say, "no, it's Monday and movie time is on Thursday afternoon." Having specific times to count on meant that my kids were willing to wait and that they didn't try to stretch things out because they knew when the next opportunity would come. 

 

One other thing that I learned from my kids: some video games only allow saving at particular points. We try very hard to communicate about these. If time is almost over, they know not to start something new. If they are almost to a save point when it is time to stop, I give them the chance to get there. So far, none of us have abused this system.

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#4 of 16 Old 02-22-2011, 07:48 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by pianojazzgirl View Post

 

 

I think that while yes there are (newly turned) 6yos who would be able to do that, a lot still wouldn't have the impulse control to not play *just a little bit more*.  In fact, sometimes even grown-ups have trouble calling it quits when they're doing something fun (um... thinking of the box of chocolates I just demolished)!  And the fact is that your particular 6yo has shown that he is not quite ready for that responsibility quite yet, so it seems like you will have to continue to check in on him when it's time to stop playing the game.

 

We are tv- and video game- free here, so I can't offer you any solid advice regarding managing screen-time, sorry mama.



Thanks for your response.  I think you're right; I suspect that his lack of impulse control isn't developmentally inappropriate--perhaps it's just more troubling to me because he seems to possess this control in other areas (if I were to leave him with dinner and a cupcake on his plate, for example, with instructions to finish his dinner first, I'm confident he would wait).  

 

I sometimes regret that we haven't ben TV-free (and *especially* video game-free) because of the conflict that this causes.  It just has such a strong pull with him.  He didn't watch any TV (and we didn't have any video games or even internet at our house) until after he was 2, but he has always had such a draw to *anything* electronic.  My daughters have been exposed to more, earlier (by virtue of us now owning these things, and because they have older sibling(s)), and don't seem nearly as sucked-in (the 18-month-old still doesn't "watch" any TV, but she is around it more than they were) as he was/is.  I've worried that my limiting it so extremely at first is what caused the obsession on his part (though I definitely know plenty of TV-free kids who don't appear to feel the same way).  


My son seems particularly sensitive to being "controlled," and has told me before (though not in so many words) that he feels I am being too controlling of him.  (I don't feel that I am particularly controlling, but I suppose one rarely feels that they are.)  So I worry some that if I make too much of an issue of this, it may backfire.  On the other hand, he clearly needs help moderating this, at least for now.

 

Thanks again for your input.

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#5 of 16 Old 02-22-2011, 07:54 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by TEAK's Mom View Post

 Are there specific times when they are always allowed? 

 

 



This is a good point--perhaps I could structure this a bit more and it would alleviate some of the conflict.  


Right now, video games are allowed on the weekends (after school Friday until dinner time Sunday)--for as long as he has "earned" (like I said, usually 2-3 hours, total).  TV time is more sporadic, but almost never during the week (unless they are at my parents' house, where all bets are off).  On the weekend, we may allow them to watch a show or two on Saturday or Sunday morning (while we, ahem, buy ourselves a little more time in bed), and maybe every 2-3 weeks, we'll watch a movie together one weekend-night.

 

But it might be worth making more of a routine of it--a movie every Saturday night, or some such thing.  Thanks for this idea.

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#6 of 16 Old 02-22-2011, 08:16 PM
 
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I don't think most 6yos are capable of self-regulating an activity that they are so addicted to that they would prefer to do all day if possible. It's just not a realistic expectation.

So if I had decided to allow my 6yo to have a DS and to watch TV, then yes, I would do exactly what you are doing, and accept my role as "policewoman" of the electronics. He may feel like you are controlling - but as his parent, that's your job! (And I agree with a pp that having specific times for screen time is a good idea.)
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#7 of 16 Old 02-22-2011, 08:26 PM
 
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It sounds like you're putting a lot of thought into what you don't want him doing.  How about focusing more on what you DO want him to do when he's not watching tube or gaming? 

 

I have a five year old and we do "tv time" some in the morning and some around 5 when I'm making dinner.  She knows she can watch her shows (Dinosaur Train and iCarly, Fresh Beats, Superwhy) and that makes her happy.  I let her go on Starfall.com whenever she wants.  We have a wii, but we only use it as a family to play Beatles rock band, and I think that is more fun for DH and myself than DD.

 

I've told her that too much tv turns your brain to mush, so if I feel like tv time is stretching beyond my comfort level, I give her an alternative.  I don't think, at 5-6, just saying turn the tv off and go entertain yourself in a different fashion would work here.  So, if TV Time is over, I will ask her to come in to the kitchen and get the plates to set the table.  Or have her help me cook.  Or if I am done cooking, tell her that I want to play a quick board game or school.  And even if I did say "turn the tv off after this show is over" I would probably follow it with "and come in the kitchen and I'll make you snack/play a game/you can do xyz" incentive.  What other things does he like to do besides tv and gaming? 

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#8 of 16 Old 02-22-2011, 09:32 PM
 
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I'm going to suggest a totally different approach. What about taking off the limits completely? Let DS have his screen time, have lots of screen time, OD on screen time. He will self-regulate if allowed but he'll have to go overboard before that happens. We don't limit screen time for our DS, who is almost four. He watches TV sometimes daily, some days not at all, when he's tired he'll watch a lot, but I also veg in front of the tube when I'm pooped. He also gets bored with it, decides to stop watching and do other things and turns it off when asked without nagging or fighting. Screen time is a total non-issue in our house. I do try to keep him focused on things that are more educational than others, but we have lots of fun watching really stupid stuff too. I watch with him, sometimes he watches alone. We talk about what we see. It's all good.

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#9 of 16 Old 02-22-2011, 11:40 PM
 
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Once upon a time, I regulated TV/screen time. I've given up. Why? Because as a previous poster noted, I notice that my kids mostly self-regulate. We don't do TV before school. After school, dd wants to watch a bit of TV and ds wants to play Wii. There isn't that much time between school and dinner and so each gets 30-45 minutes. But even when they get more, they often don't use it. 

 

Tonight, ds had soccer practice and so didn't get home until 7 pm. Dd had the TV all to herself and could have watched well over an hour. She didn't. She watched one show, then came upstairs and had me help her build a village with blocks for her letter families. There are times when dd's (or ds') fertile imagination isn't quite so fertile and she watches more TV. 9 times out of 10 (and probably closer to 99 times out of a 100), if I engage her in something, the TV is off in a heartbeat.

 

Now, I understand that you may not want to let your child self-regulate and that's fine. If you do regulate, I think a couple of things might make your lives easier. Instead of having it be time based, have TV watching be show based. Most kids shows are about 25 minutes, even on PBS. If my kids watch 2 shows, that's still less than an hour. The only times they've watched more than 2 shows is when they're sick! With video games, you'll have to do time, but I would make sure that you give him a warning. If he's just about to finish a level, for example, it's kind of cruel to make him stop right then.

 

I also like the idea of having specific times when they're allowed. So, in our house, TV is allowed between school and dinner. In winter, especially, I'm OK with that. There's no one around to play with, it's dark and rainy and my kids need some down time to relax after school. I don't want screen time after dinner because it keeps them up. If your son isn't watching TV at all on weekdays, then yes, he probably WILL want to do a lot of screen time on weekends. But remind yourself, he's NOT got any during the week. Does it balance out?

 

 

 

 


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#10 of 16 Old 02-23-2011, 05:34 AM - Thread Starter
 
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The idea of not regulating his video game/TV time has crossed my mind, but I think that "experiment" has been done on the vast majority of American kids with pretty clear results.  Those of you who shared your families' stories specifically, I don't doubt for a moment that it is working brilliantly for your kids--but I'm guessing your kids don't have the same "pull" to the TV that mine does.  I hope, though, that as he matures and develops some of his other interests, he *will* reach a point where he can self-regulate on this issue.  

 

When TV/video games are not an option (today, for example, he's on his 3rd consecutive "snow day" and I told him we're keeping the TV off), he doesn't need any help from me initiating play.  (Right now, I can hear him upstairs "talking to himself"--creating dialogue for whatever things he's playing with.)  He loves puzzles and mazes and word searches.  He and his sister often get up an hour or so before anyone else and come downstairs to work together on a "hidden picture" book.  He's a strong reader, and enjoys reading and being read to (he also reads to his sister from time-to-time, and is trying to teach her to read--which is endearing, and she enjoys it, though she's really not quite "ready").  

 

So I think I'm going to try to do what many of you suggested and implement specific times when we *do* watch TV, et cetera.  Honestly, it feels more structured than I want to be--but I don't think he's ready for the extreme alternative, and this something-in-the-middle that we've been doing is causing conflict, I think.  I will mention--though it doesn't much matter--that it's the *video games* that seem to have the real pull with him.  If given the option of watching TV or playing ANY video game (computer, DS, even some free built-in game on my cell phone), he will always choose the video games--and this is often the case.  His sister, on the other hand, does not have so much as a mild curiosity about video games, but enjoys TV as often as it's allowed (and doesn't ask for it when it's not).  

 

Anyway, thanks again for everyone's input!

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#11 of 16 Old 02-23-2011, 06:17 AM
 
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We limit our kids' screen time.  They get free time on weekends to watch movies and play games but during the week, they don't.  I have relaxed that a bit for my younger son so that he can play a video game during ds1's many sports practices. 

 

Some kids have a harder time self-regulating than others. 

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#12 of 16 Old 02-23-2011, 11:38 AM
 
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We like movie night here, we usually make home made pizza and eat in the sitting room while watching. We don;t do it every week though I think the kids would like to.

 

I've also found it helpful to record their favourite programmes. That way when it ends they don't get sucked into watching the next thing before turning off.

 

Video games I find are harder, for one thing it's not easy to predict how long a level will take and it seems reasonable to get to a point where they can save before turning off. Also they (and I) want to play more if we just got a new game but will go for weeks without getting it out at other times. Right now we are having some turn taking issues so they are only able to play when DH and I are around to supervise. They are 6 and 4.

 

For the most part they are pretty good turning off if I ask them to turn off at the end of the show. They are also pretty good at not staying glued to shows which don't interest them. We don't have any hard and fast limits, just days when I say I think we've had enough TV lets find something else to do.

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#13 of 16 Old 02-23-2011, 01:09 PM
 
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How about this:  if he has done his schoolwork, chores, and his sport or musical instrument if applicable -- he can have free access to the video games you find appropriate.  Chess?  Tetris has been show to boost spatial scores.  A fitness program?  A singing game with a pitch matching component? 

 

Then shut up the games you don't value for a block of time on the weekends.

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#14 of 16 Old 02-23-2011, 06:20 PM
 
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We are a tv/game (xbox-Kinect, nds, itouch, wii) family.  That said. DS (4) knows that the xbox doesn't get turned on until it is dark out.  He is allowed use of his Leapster Explorer earlier in the day for the educational games (yes they are educational).  The NDS mainly is used in the car.    He uses the Kinect and wii for jump around exercise time (we do this together often). There are  times that he can use them and he knows the times. 

I think it is a good idea to have specified set aside times for the games.


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#15 of 16 Old 02-23-2011, 08:01 PM
 
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DS loves playing our Wii. Just yesterday he was begging to play wii games. I told him it was too nice outside to be stuck inside in front of the tv. Go find a stick or shoot off your rocket. It's going to rain later this week and we'll play plenty then. He huffed once and was outside playing in no time. I agree with the pp that suggested you figure out a way to engage him in something else. Also, I'd lighten up on the rules re: screen time in general, but that's mostly because the whole marble thing just sounds like a lot of work for me. Like some other people said, some days we have more screen time, other days we have none, just depending on our mood and other circumstances that day. I think it all works out in the end.


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#16 of 16 Old 02-23-2011, 10:24 PM
 
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Do y'all have family meetings?  Or sometime where you can explain why you have the rules and just state that you want him to have good memories of doing fun stuff, not just watching TV all the time?

 

I don't think a lot of 6 year-olds will be able to self regulate... my newly 7 year-old *loves* legos and is like that with legos.  He will wake up and just start building stuff, and I have to ask him 10 times to get dressed in the morning... He is just really hyper focused on it. Video games and stuff are the same thing, a puzzle you want to solve...

 

The only thing I can think of is that that is a lot of different choices...

 

Hang in there, mama.


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