Reading for Screen Time

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

We’ve entered a new phase of parenting. My husband and I have decided that screen time isn’t free. We are instituting a minute for minute trade off. For every minute our dudes read, write or craft, they get a minute of screen time.

Some of you are thinking, “Duh, of course”. Others are thinking, “Novel idea,” kind of like we were when some friends mentioned it.

It wasn’t a difficult decision to make. But, it’s hard to practice. As I write this post it hasn’t even been 24 hours since we communicated and introduced the change to our dudes. I already want to give in.

My dudes are mourning the loss of what has been freely given. It’s always been available to them. No questions asked. They’ve never had to earn it. This is a shift they weren’t expecting.

How did we end up here?

You may recall a post I did this summer: Unplugged, Turned Off and Tuned Out. And unplug we did. Less gadget time helped. I am sad to report that it’s creeped back up to unnecessary levels because we keep getting busier and busier. My hubby and I accept responsibility for this. It’s our fault not our dudes.

We’ve noticed increased tiredness; aggressive behavior and language; and their brotherly friendship is deteriorating. Sometimes their interactions end in a physically volatile manner.

They’ve forgotten about respect and acceptance and love. Oh yeah and did I mention respect. Not just for one another but for themselves. This can not continue to happen.

What’s their response?

8 Year Old Reads© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

8 Year Old Reads
© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

My oldest dude is mopey and mad. My youngest isn’t happy but spent 10 minutes this morning reading when they would usually watch TV. He’s on the path; already earned his first screen time. It may be harder at the end of the day for him. We’ll see.

Needless to say they are very angry. I’ve already heard the “B” word out of their little mouths. No. Not that one. This one: “I’m bored and I don’t have anything to read.”

Tragic right?

In my day, TV shows and movies weren’t so accessible. I mean you had to wait a whole week for the next episode. Now you can wait a day and see it on Hulu. And if you missed episodes you had to watch the reruns in the summer. Now you can wait for the next season to start and see the previous one on Netflix.

Oh and don’t forget the beauty of DVR. My kids have the luxury of instant gratification. It’s way too easy for them to watch what they want when they want; which can be a challenge for parents.

We were sent outside to play and couldn’t come back till the streetlights came on. We didn’t have all this fancy gadgetry. We didn’t have VHS till I was in high school. We didn’t have a computer in my childhood home. DVDs didn’t exist nor did the Internet or Apps. We had what we had and we were happy.

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

We didn’t get to buy books, we went to the library. My boys have their own personal libraries and are running out of room on their bookshelves. We had chores that we didn’t get paid for, it was how we contributed to the household. Our little guys get an allowance for their contributions i.e. cleaning up and folding laundry.

I digress. Our boys have so many advantages.

The oldest is struggling the most. He said, as I dropped him off at school, “I hate reading and writing now.”

I truly hope this isn’t the case. It isn’t the desired effect.

Our goal isn’t to make them perceive reading as a punishment. Rather we want screen time to be perceived as a privilege and not a right. That it is a level of reward or an added benefit. For me reading is its own reward and I want my boys to think the same way.

Maybe there’s another approach and we haven’t come across it yet.

Of course, as parents, we receive the right to gift screen time to our boys on occasion but it’s not the rule of thumb. I know that there will be modifications along the way. In the end I anticipate that their moods will improve.

6 Year Old Reads© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

6 Year Old Reads
© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

For those of you thinking that it may not be the type of content they experience or the amount of it … we did a week long trial limiting their screen time and the content. We saw positive change.

So here we go. It’s time for drastic measures. Wish us luck … send up a prayer … We purchased new reads!

Parents, what have you done to balance out screen time in the lives of your little people?

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Unplugged, Turned Off, and Tuned Out

Reading for unplugged times.

My family and I are addicted to technology especially my 5 year old who is bored in less than 5 seconds if we make him turn off his 3DS and play with … gasp … a toy.

Our boys get an hour of TV before going to daycare. An hour of TV when they get back from daycare. And, thankfully, they only get TV at daycare for special events tied to curriculum.

Sometimes they get a half hour (or more) of video game time or computer time. And those are on the days when I’m diligent and stick to the schedule. The weekends are a completely different situation; and not in a good way. That’s a lot of plugged in time for little dudes.

So it’s up to me to set the example and it’s hard. I didn’t realize how much I relied on my electronic interfaces.

I check Facebook and Instagram constantly. I hit refresh on my email every few minutes, hoping something new will pop up. I watch my blog stats real time, as if they’re changing so rapidly, while I watch TV. I have new blog posts in my Reader that need to be read and commented on. Then there’s Netflix and Hulu which allow me to watch entire seasons of shows back to back. There’s so much to see.

For my husband, it’s Words with Friends and a plethora of podcasts. We are always wirelessly wired.

Still trying to finish 2009 scrapbooks.

Can you relate? Maybe you have some other social media to keep up with like Twitter or Pinterest or Google Plus or Tumblr or fill in the blank … am I right?

Well, I’ve made a commitment to go on an electronics diet this summer. Notice I put a time limit on this “goal”. I am making an effort to consume a little less TV, video games, phone time, computer time, etc.

To support my diet, I’ve purchased a hardcopy book instead of loading up new fiction to my Kindle. I actually went to the bookstore with the boys and we all picked out new books. I can’t remember the last time I purchased a physical copy of a book.

But when I tell them to unplug and get a book, I can do the same … Life in these gaps of being unplugged is interesting.

I started with 20 minutes … we didn’t know what to do. We looked at each other but not in the eyes for fear we might spontaneously combust. I bit my nails and held my breath. We all watched the timer countdown the minutes. The boys cried, “Why?” at the highest decibels. We were all relieved for the 20 minutes to be over.

I didn’t plan well. It would have gone better if I had organized an activity to fill the time for the first go round … Now I know … I have a list of options they can do independently or as a group. Some are fun and others not so much …

  • Play outside
  • Read a book
  • Scrapbook (we have vacation pictures)
  • Board games (we just started Pokemon trading card game)
  • Chores (we are working on folding laundry)
  • Family conversation

Activities, like these, where they can flex their creative muscles or just relax and unwind from the barrage of information and images that are always coming at us.

It’s important to note that we aren’t “making up” that “lost” 20 minutes in other parts of the day. We’re cutting back.

Slowly I am increasing the time of being turned off and tuned out. And slowly, we are adjusting to being without our gadgets. The boys know that unplugged moments are going to be part of our lives.

It’s getting easier … I’m realistic. I’ll never do away with gadgets in our home. Like I said, we’re junkies. And it’s not a bad thing but moderation is key.

The funny thing? When I pick up my iPhone or open my computer, it’s waiting for me. Patiently waiting for me. I’ve been pinged or notified that something happened. I didn’t miss it. I only delayed it.

Been working on this blanket for way too long. Before my boys were born.

And, being unplugged means I have interesting things to post or share, or so I think, because I took the break to live a little life.

I’ve noticed that my boys, who no longer take naps, are a little less crabby when bedtime rolls around. There is a lot more conversation about characters they’ve made up and stories they want to write or play out as live action. Less is more in terms of gadgets especially as it relates to creativity.

I’ve also noticed that as a Momma, I’m a little less stressed out. I don’t respond to their meltdowns with frustration because I’m not harried or weighted down by being connected like I’m on life support.

So tell me, how do you intentionally unplug? What would you do if you weren’t plugged in? What changes do you notice when you’ve had a break from being connected?