We just visited the doctor the other day for a well-check, and was told that the College of Pediatrics recommends no more than 1 hour of screen time a day. I must admit that on school break days, I will often allow many more times that much screen time, on at least one or two days, if the break is a week long. However, for years, one hour has been our standard. On weekends, we might do a bit more, especially if the screen time includes watching shows together as a family.
Through a convoluted set of circumstances, that I won’t bore you with on this post, my son somehow ended up with 90 minutes of screen time each night. But being an 8th-grader, that meant it was hard to fit both homework and screen time in, along with piano lessons and youth group. Thankfully we didn’t have to try to fit sports into that mix, too. Though, I do need to figure out how to get more exercise out of the kid! Anyway, I finally pulled a helpful piece of parenting advice that I received from a friend years ago, and have threatened to use for several years now, out of my back pocket.
As mentioned, my son had been having a hard time completing his homework, because he wanted to make sure he got in his 90 minutes of computer time each evening. No matter how many times I asked if his homework was done, or asked to see if it was completed, too many times, I would later find that he had only finished part of it because 7 pm computer start time had approached before the homework was done. So here’s what I finally did.
My friend didn’t allow her boys to play computer on the weekdays. Because of his ASD, I thought that may be a little hard on him. But I modified the advice to fit our family’s needs. My son now only gets 30 minutes of computer time M-Th evenings. He then gets 90 min F-Sun. So the itch gets scratched, but there is still plenty of time for homework, and even a little bit of time for family interaction, too. This has been great, as it has helped him feel more connected to us, and thus, less stressed out about life. Who would’ve thunk?
Having him play 60 minutes less of computer a night means that I am on duty those extra 60 minutes. And I must admit that took some getting used to at first. But now I look forward to quizzing him for an upcoming test or hearing about the latest Lego set he can’t wait to save up for.
I’m hoping that he will use this new rhythm when he is on his own, too – it’s ok to have fun, but you have to make sure you get your work done, and then you can spoil yourself a bit on the weekends. Oh, and don’t forget to make time for family – it will make life better in the long (and short) run.