I mentioned in my Week 16 Pregnancy Update, that we were needing to wean from the screen because I had used movies and streaming video and iPad games to “babysit” the kids during my bout with morning sickness. After a week of really cracking down, the whining and asking and falling on the floor in a heap of “I’m bored” was almost *almost* completely nipped in the bud.
Several of you asked how I went about this, so this post is my answer to that question.
The way we ended up with too much screen time is a sordid affair. I have a house full of boys. Rowdy, rambunctious, jump on mama’s bed when she feels nauseous little boys. They are awesome, but without our usual daily routine, they were BORED.
No really, they truly were bored.
I don’t typically like that word, but frankly, when kids are used to a certain routine and that routine suddenly becomes NOTHING, they feel a little lost and need something to fill that space. For boys, that something is rarely quiet or calm. Thus, the electronic babysitter.
**NOTE: This photo is how we do family movie night – a projector and laptop with the movie projected onto a blank wall in our living room. This is the projector we own.**
The last straw was the day my 5 year old asked every 5 minutes if he could watch a movie on the iPad.
Every. Five. Minutes.
I was finally coming out of the First Trimester Fog, and I knew we needed to go back to our usual Movie Days (more on what Movie Days are in a second). After 15 times of telling him no, I realized watching movies had become part of his daily routine and he had no recollection of this Movie Day thing I kept spouting off about. And really how dare I change up the routine of every day movie watching without explaining myself! So, we had a quick Family Meeting where I explained the finer points of that vague notion we once called Movie Day.
Now, I know you all know this, but here’s my disclaimer…
These are the Roberts Family Movie Days. They are guidelines we feel comfortable with. They are not a set of rules YOU have to follow. The real issue here is to have guidelines. Your children need to know WHEN screen time is appropriate. It may be something as simple as “after school work is finished” or “between 4-6pm” or whatever you like.
Movie Days are Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. Wednesdays and Fridays are Roberts Family Movie Night. Saturday is Computer Time for everyone (only my oldest 2 children have weekday Computer Days).
Exact computer time is based on age:
My littlest guys get 15 minutes.
My middles get 30 minutes.
My oldest kids get an hour on Saturdays (they get 45 minutes on their alternating weekdays).
Everyone is also allowed to watch a movie or two on Saturday.
Another major aspect of this schedule is the fact that if we are gone any of these days, there is no “banking the time.” If you miss a day that you usually have Computer Time on, you don’t get to have that time the next day to “make up” for it. If we aren’t home on Saturday, we don’t automatically make Sunday a Movie Day.
Are there exceptions? Of course! We are a family and sometimes these sorts of rules get broken in favor of family life. It’s ok.
So, once we established that we were going back to our typical Movie Days, I was able to remind the children of the day of the week and keep a lot of the asking for screen time at bay. My 5 year old asks every day, “What is today?” I tell him the day of the week and then he asks, “And what do we do on that day?” I usually give him a quick run-down of the day and then get to the real answer he’s looking for…
“Today is not a movie day.”
At some point, I want to get a calendar made up that has Sunday – Saturday with all the screen time written on it (with pictures for my non-readers), but that has yet to happen. I’m still too foggy for that.