I was so proud of my kids over the summer. But you know what they say about pride. Other moms were talking about how difficult it was to keep their kids technology time under control. The kids would get on their tablets, Kindles or iPads and not get off. Once they were tuned in, they tuned out to the rest of the world and there were lots of discussions about how to limit their kids tech time. But not me, I didn’t have that trouble. Nope, my kids were – well not perfect – but they didn’t seem to tune in and tune out the way other kids did. They didn’t even want to read books on their Kindle’s they wanted real books. They would play for awhile and then put it all away and head out to play. But then the school year came and everything changed.
I don’t know what it is about the school year, but the girls each week seemed to spent more and more time on their tech toys. They would be lost in the world of Minecraft and other games and apps but at least when I told them to take a break they would. But as time wore on it got even worse. They had their headphones on so never heard as word I said and only communicated with each other as they played their games and apps and watched YouTube video after video.
At first I thought it a little cute. I mean they were watching lots of Minecraft video so they were learning how to do things in their worlds. They also watched a lot of hair styling videos and would practice on their dolls, my hair and each others. But again, as time wore on their infatuation with the screen got even deeper and longer. No longer could I just say, “Hey girls time to get off your (insert tech device here)” and have them hear me and do it. There was always an excuse. “Just 5 more minutes?” “Let me finish this video” and even worse, not hearing me at all.
I tried several different methods to make their tech time limited. But the other day we had a family meeting. Enough was enough! They weren’t listening. They weren’t responding to the world around them. They weren’t reading books or wanting to go out to play. They didn’t want to go to the museum or any place else, but lay around all day and “play” on their tablets.
Parenting with Poker Chips
I grabbed the Poker chip box. I’m tired of the fighting. I’m tired of the “time outs” and sending to their room and putting their technology on top of the refrigerator. I had a plan and hopefully it will work.
- Each child receives a number of poker chips, with each poker chip equally 15 minutes of tech time. Want to watch a movie? 2 Poker Chips paid to mom is the “fine” for a 30 minute episode.
- We start out the week with a limited number of chips in their individual boxes.
- They have a limited number of minutes of “free tech time” available. This also gives them time to do homework which requires the use of the Internet and computer.
- NO, absolutely no technology in the mornings. That’s for getting ready for school, which requires more than just brushing your teeth and getting dressed.
- No tech time while eating. It’s always been a rule with family dinner time, but now it is all meals.
- Extra tech time can be earned. As it is earned I give you bonus chips. Bonus chips are a different color from regular time chips.
- Each child has their own color poker chips and tech time box.
- No, they don’t get to carry over their chips to the next week AND add to them for the following.
- Tech time for the week is awarded each Sunday with bonus time added immediately upon doing their bonus earning activity.
It’s been two weeks now and WOW what a change those two weeks has made. The girls went last night to the science night at their school. They also attended the book fair and used their allowance to buy a book. They are spending SO little time on technology that we are going to the park several days a week after school and they have poker chips and bonus chips left over each week.
It’s hard to believe what a difference limiting their time makes. I never had to do it before but I’m glad I’m doing it now. Tech time doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but it can turn into one. It’s up to us to find what works for our children to make tech time work for our family. And, if it means better parenting through poker chips, then I’m all for it.
PS: Amazon and Kindle offer an app for parents Kindle FreeTime– which can be a great way to handle the time spent on technology when it’s on the Kindle. Check it out. But I needed something that would work for everything. These kids are creative!