nfuf: managing kids’ screen time with ‘game time’ cards
This New For Us Friday I’m sharing our family’s feeble attempt to regain some control over the wild world of electronics in our household while at the same time giving our kiddos some control themselves. It’s a work in progress, like everything we do around here.
Ever since we brought the Wii into our house at Christmastime, our household has been forever changed. Yes, it’s fun on a whole new level for us, and yes, I am known in the family for my mad Mario skills. But on the flip side, our kids have sounded like a broken record:
Can we play Wii? It’s Leapster time! My turn for the Leapster!
Is it time to play Wii? Are we having a Wii party tonight?
Can we play Wii?
Mommy, can I play Leapster?
Let’s have a Wii party.
Mommy, let’s play Super Mario Bros. You know you like Super Mario Brothers!!
Okay, then can I do the Leapster or play on your phone?
Daddy! I have an idea! Let’s play the Wii.
Needless to say, something needed to change, or my brain would have exploded by mid month. Not that big of a deal for my husband, who very often plays Super Mario after the kids go to bed (okay, and some nights I play with him–I won’t lie!). But the constant electronics obsession was making me insane. I understand it’s winter, the kids can’t get out like they need to–I get that. But I also know that kids need time to play by themselves, with dolls, cars, dinos–pretending, dreaming, using their imagination–away from the buzz of electronics.
So this week, after days and days and days of scouring the internet for information on ‘how much screen time’ is appropriate for my sweet 3 (almost 4!), 5, and 7 year old, my husband and I came up with something we think may help: Game Time Chart and Game Time Cards.
- Game Time Chart: We’re still using our Gem Jars but we needed something a little more focused to rope in the Wii crazies over here. So I began by making a Game Time Chart to figure out how much time we were logging in already. The reality of our kids’ screen time was not pretty.
The Game Time Chart is here to download as a pdf if you would like to use it yourself.
the Game Time Chart–logging screen time and setting goals
I modeled the Game Time Chart after one I found on the US Dept. of Health and Human Services site, but I catered it more toward our needs. I made it a weekly chart with spaces to log tv, computer time, video game time (Wii, for us), hand-held games (LeapFrog Explorer for us), smart phone games (kids playing on my phone), and DVD time (or movies).
Because I’m all about goal-setting, I made line for a weekly goal–ours will be 2-3 hours–and then a spot for totaling hours and indicating with a Y/N whether that week’s goal was met.
- Game Time Cards: Next I created little cards, with a fancy little Game Time logo I worked out while I was watching Frontline’s Digital Nation and was freaking out just a little bit about the state of my kids’ futures. I made one set each for Maddy, Owen, and Cora, with four 15-minute cards and two ‘Rest Time’ cards.
Game Time Cards–blank ones–are here to download as a pdf if you’d like.
I printed Maddy’s on pink cardstock, Owen’s on green, and Cora’s on orange. I made an extra set on yellow, a few with 15 minutes and two with 30 minutes on them that the kids could ‘earn’ if they demonstrated great behavior, had a super morning, whatever–the first week, no superstar cards were handed out.
. . . and the Game Time Cards–superstar ones!
Then I found teeny envelopes from a set of teeny cards, and I stapled them to a small cork board. With an ‘IN’ and an ‘OUT’ for each kiddo’s cards, we thought that the kids could choose to ‘cash in’ their Game Time Cards when they wanted.
- Wii is played only on the weekends– Friday, Saturday, Sunday–(or on snowdays or unexpected days off);
- Cards can be used only for Leapster Explorer or computer games;
- Screen time starts after school;
- New cards start on Monday;
- Cards total 1-2 hours, depending on how long Rest Time is on a given day;
- Kids can cash in their cards whenever they want, but when they’re gone, they’re gone.
- Owen and Cora take turns choosing one 30-min show after Rest Time from a list of shows we record;
- Maddy, Owen, and Cora watch either Sesame Street or one of the shows we record for the 30-45 min while I make dinner, after homework is completed.
Is it perfect? No way. Is it a work in progress? Absolutely. We’re learning as we go, and trying our very best at the most difficult job out there. All I know is that I can handle a ‘Hey Mom, I’m using a Game Time ticket’ a lot more easily than I could handle the constant Wii/ Leapster Explorer chatter. Granted, we’re only one week in. . .
I went with the goal of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ 2001 recommendations for total media time (with entertainment media) to 1-2 hours of quality programming/ day (2001, Children, Adolescents, and Television). So we’re on the larger end, but it’s winter, the kids aren’t out as much, and this is new.
Looking for some information yourself? Here’s much of what I found–and used–for shaping our Game Time Cards, Game Time Chart, and the whole screen time deal for our family:
- Children, Adolescents, and Television: AAP, 2001
- Frontline: digital_nation–life on the virtual frontier
- Reduce Screen Time: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
- Children and TV–Limiting your child’s screen time: Mayo Clinic
- Establishing Guidelines for Summertime Screentime: Leticia Barr, on LeapFrog Community
- Frontline: The Impact of Gaming, Henry Jenkins
- Special Issues for Children–Video Games: Media Awareness Network