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Encouraging Heroes. You can be one too.

My new post Screen Time is up at ForeverParenting.  If anyone has kids that stare at screens too often, hop on over and give me some advice.  🙂  I’m needing it.

One of the disadvantages of home schooling is, well, that they’re home all the time and the Siren Song of the Screen is strong. If I’m not especially vigilant, the younger boys can play computer games for a couple of hours while I’m schooling the older boys.

I’ve broken them of the habit of turning on the television when they wake up, so most mornings a visitor to my house would hear wild romping and play for a good hour. Which pleases me no end, except for the danger they pose to my poor house. In fact, they usually have so much fun that it’s difficult to get them to stop for breakfast.

That computer though. It’s a tough one to avoid. They’re so nice and quiet when they’re in front of that screen. The older boys are able to read and calculate without distraction. If I limit the game time, then they’re loudly marching back and forth being distracting. Loudly. Did I mention they’re loud?

After the older boys’ instruction time is done I work with the younger ones. We read stories and do some short activities. By then the older boys have finished their work and want to play on the computer.

Sometime after that, the fun begins. “MooooOOOOOoooommmmmmm! He’s played on the computer all day and I haven’t had a turn!!” “Mommmmm! Is it my turn yet???” or (one of my real favorites) I announce that it’s time to be done on the computer and I hear “But I’ve only played for TEN MINUTES” when it’s really been forty-five. And of course, if your brother is playing on the computer and you’re just sitting in the next chair kibbitzing, well, that doesn’t count as screen time, right? Ha.

I was reading a report on children and video games last night and discovered that a ‘super user’ is a child in front of a screen 6 or more hours a week. Sheesh. Give a kid two half-hour turns per day and you are apparently creating a monster. Add in all the time they spend watching each other and I’m in trouble. On top of that, they see me at the computer for a great number of hours during the day. I’m actively reading and writing, not playing video games, but they don’t see that. It just looks like Mom at the computer.

I’m thinking about buying one of those programs that will limit computer time. Seems like an unemotional program shutting them down-and refusing to argue the point-would be easier on everyone.

I try my best to be helpful and supportive in monitoring turns and time, but I can’t always catch who is on what turn, especially when they have random fits of generosity and will let someone else play out the turn on the timer. That of course sets the stage for a new fit when the timer does chime, because someone got extra time and as the mother of twins I am morally obligated to be sure that everything in their lives is measured and meted out with exact equality and fairness. According to their whimsical definition, of course.

It’s enough to make a person beat her head on the wall. Of course, then we’re back to my poor house and all the blows the walls have already taken, so I’m trying to abstain from that to prevent further damage.

So, I’m thinking that some kind of external limitation program might be helpful. Anyone use one? What advantages and disadvantages are there? Any other suggestions for solving the problem?

Earnest Parenting: help for parents with screen-addicted kids.