You know the feeling? Everything sorted out, soulmate found, genes mixed nicely and hatched, growing like hell... And now what?
Caiman Pacifying the Offspring (2)
Limiting screen time.
A problem that I think a lot of parents are trying to cope with, is how to regulate the amount of time spent staring at screens.
Over time we identified several stages where it is very difficult to increase control after getting to the next stage.
Stage zero is when your kids are too small to grab hold of remote controls and devices. Unfortunately, this stage is incredibly short.
Stage one, when they start to be able to operate heavy machinery, ehrmm, I mean electronic devices, is a good moment to start some kind of control if you don't want too much discussion about your authority later on.
Our first attempt was to use a parental control app on our tablet, but the kids found out that they could bypass it by pressing the home key and back key very fast. If you have a lot of time at hand, as kids do, there is a lot of trial and error you can do. Removing the app caused the tablet to crash in such a way that only a factory reset could save it. This ended that experiment.
Being a little wiser after that experience, we devised a system of screen-cards, each worth half an hour of screen time. By default, one card was given each day. Any private screen use counted (TV, game console, PC, smartphone, tablet), except watching TV with the whole family. More cards could be earned by doing chores. Initially, the card needed to be physically handed over to cash in the half-hour right there and then, after first confirming the state of homework/room cleanliness allowed for this. Over time the actual pieces of cardboard were omitted and half an hour became more flexible, depending on how quiet the kids are and how long you want to enjoy that quiet period. The main thing is to teach them a mindset where you still have an off switch included.
Let's just say, this worked for quite some time…. But….
Once the kids really need their phones because their schools are no longer at a walking distance, it becomes very hard to have any control at all, apart from 'If your schoolwork suffers, you can hand over that phone for a week and see how you get home!'
This is the current state of affairs in Caiman Mansion(-ish). Following stages will certainly unfold in the future. I will keep you posted.
To close this part of the story, one final thing:
A major and easily overlooked thing is that, as a parent, you have to show what is a healthy dose of screen time in your own daily life. Otherwise it will be very difficult to maintain credibility for the card system, or any other system at that.