Managing Screen Time

by WCE

Screen time v play time: what tech leaders won’t let their own kids do

This article on how different technology leaders manage their kids’ use of technology made me consider what limits are appropriate. My boys love TV, Netflix, Minecraft, etc. and their daily time is subject to completion of chores and homework. It can also be revoked for misbehavior. We have a Waldorf school nearby and I know people who like it, but avoiding screen time/electronics until you’re 12 seems unnecessary and a lot of work for the parent… and I’m all about avoiding lots of work for the parent. On the other hand, I worry about excessive gaming by my future-young-adult sons. Lack of self control in this area has affected college achievement and marriages of people I know.

When I spent a couple hours in the hospital lab for gestational diabetes testing, I took along a Disney Classics book from the library book sale and read my children the long stories I never read them at bedtime, due to lack of anything else to do. I try to make choices to interact in nontechnological ways. I sometimes waste too much time on the computer, especially when I’m tired or stressed or know I’ll be constantly interrupted if I try to read a real book. However, I also do lots of work on the computer (paid work as well as paying bills, researching travel, e-mailing with family, reading up on taxes or home repairs, managing finances). Sometimes the distinction between doing work and wasting time isn’t always clear. When our carpet cleaner seemed to be misbehaving, I read a lot about what was wrong and watched some videos on how to disassemble it, but read far more Amazon comments on different machines than strictly necessary since we didn’t end up replacing it. I do a lot of shopping online. Knowing where to find a replacement for the electric teapot and ordering a long-sleeved white shirt for Twin 1’s Storm Trooper costume are cases that come to mind.

What are your views of screen time and kids? Am I the only one who admits to wasting time this way as an adult?


100 thoughts on “Managing Screen Time

  1. We’re in a summer slowdown for posts, with only one left after this one. So feel free to submit your topics!

  2. Good post! I’ve been thinking about this lately. In the past month, I’ve limited my kids’ normal screen time to 1 hour the afternoon. Since they know they won’t have screen time in the morning, they’ve spent more time playing outside and doing other things.

    As a mom, I like having set expectations, so I don’t have to hear them asking for screen time all day long.

    We also have a screen free day on Sunday. My husband still spends plenty of time on his phone, but the kids don’t have screen time. Of course, these are the general “rules” but we are flexible and allow more screen times sometimes.

  3. We have a daily limit at our house for everyone over age 2 and less than 18 (no more than one hour). I am here, so I obviously waste some time online. I try not to do it when the kids are around or when I should be doing something else. And, one of my siblings is a cardiologist. He credits his excellent cath skills to his video gaming when he was young. Seriously.

  4. “Am I the only one who admits to wasting time this way as an adult?”

    I waste too much time online, in ways similar to what you described. Time flies when I’m online. Well, at my age time flies all the time. :)

  5. I don’t limit screen time strictly. The kids need to do their homework, chores, exercising, Kahn Academy, etc. before getting access, but they understand our expectations and do these things with a good attitude.

    I’m a believer WRT screen time in what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. DH and I enjoy watching TV and tooling around on the internet after our work and chores are done, so why shouldn’t the kids have the same access/pleasure. We do take away screen time privileges as punishment, though.

  6. I waste so much time on my phone, TV, and laptop. The reason I found TOS is because I would get bored on long conference calls, and I was generally surfing. TOS was fine because it was coming up as WSJ etc.. I have very bad habits about limiting my screen time when I am supposed to working, or even just waiting. I will take out my phone if a line is long, if I am waiting for a movie to start, or riding the train. These are all of examples of times when I used to just think about stuff, read, or have a conversation with someone. I am trying to read more books this summer while DD is at camp. I throw my phone in the back seat so I am not tempted to use it at stop lights.

    I want to set a better example for DD when she gets back because there was a recent NYT article that discusses the influence that parents are having on their kids with their actions regarding screen time. I am going to make much more of an effort to continue to limit my own screen time in front of DD when she is back from camp.

    DD asked us to bring her phone on visiting day. I was very happy to see that she barely glanced at it, and she was much more interested in the candy and food. I’m not sure if it is because most of her friends are off line at their own camps, or if she just wasn’t interested since screens are a foreign object at camp. I am glad that many sleep away camps are generally run the same way they were 30 – 40 years ago. Jacks, Mad libs, stickers, books, and other games instead of electronics is a nice way to take a break. I think the break away from screen time is one of the best things about an old fashioned sleep away camp experience.

  7. Both my kids didnt have personal devices prior to age 8. They were toddlers and younger school age kids in the pre iPad era. The only screen at the time was TV. Their TV time was limited by them being in day care and there being only one TV in our house, so when DH came home kids programs were off. We take away personal devices during the school week. Computer games allowed after homework. Screen time is automatically limited by activities, playing with neighbor kids. I have been asked to buy game systems but I am not inclined to buy any. As parent in charge I think we have more than enough gaming in our house.

  8. Each kid gets 5 hours of screen time per week that carries over and lots of exceptions. We do not have mandatory activities or childcare, so some screen limits are necessary. Now, we often allow some percentage of screen time when friends visit so the can play games with friends. Reading is unlimited.

  9. I’m more lenient in the summer. DD can play on her iPod for 30 minutes in the afternoons and they generally watch television in the a.m. when I’m getting ready and in the p.m. when I’m making dinner. The morning t.v. thing is new, but DH has been leaving earlier for work so it’s up to me to get three kids and myself out the door in the a.m. and I need it. During the school year we don’t do screen time during the week but my kids are young.

  10. Ok, I feel really guilty about this topic. One of Baby Dell’s (BD) main issue is lack of desire to eat. We struggled with this a lot initially as BD was happy subsisting on milk even up to 2 years. To get BD to eat, we had to distract BD by putting on some baby related YouTube videos, and feeding puréed foods, fruits etc. we just turned three this month and things have improved quite a bit after being in daycare and just getting older. But the desire to eat is still only at subsistence level if left to own devices. BD is willing to eat normally only when YouTube or Netflix videos are streaming. So at the end of the day, we end up having about 2 hours or more of screen time. Our pediatrician has of course shared her disapproval and reminds us every time to limit screen time. I am trying to encourage eating without having a screen in front, but its a daily battle.

  11. DS (almost 10) has to earn his screen time. He used to get a certain amount every day but there was so much bickering about getting other stuff done and screen time is such an effective motivator, that we switched to him needing to earn it. He can earn screentime by unloading the dishwasher, cooking dinner, doing math. If he was a friend over for a playdate, I throw in a bonus hour for xbox or minecraft. In general, I feel like how we manage DS’s screen time works well for us.

    I’m not so sure about DD who is 15 and has an itouch (same as an iphone except no phone calls). This is the first summer where she has hardly been reading any books because she’s pretty busy (all at her initiative) – and whatever downtown she has, she spends on her itouch or her laptop – either games or watching tv via the Netflix app. I do make her leave all of her electronic devices and cell phone downstairs by 10 pm – but part of me is tempted to impose stricter limits on her itouch/laptop. For those of you with older kids, how do you manage their screen time?

    Oh yes – and me. I try to be really good about not looking at electronic devices after 9 pm so I won’t have problems falling asleep (the blue light they emit – plus I find reading a book helps me unwind more effectively). I do enjoy facebook, twitter and this blog (work has been way too busy lately and has been interfering with my time here). I don’t enjoy video games – which I feel bad about because I know DH would love to play them with me. But I just can’t keep up visually – Halo is way too much for me to process. Even xbox Fifa was too much (and I’m someone who likes soccer). Video games just feel like work to me. They are a fun way for DH to interact with the kids though.

  12. I feel like an outlier here, our kids have way more screen time than it sounds like others’ kids do. For the ages/stages of our kids, I’m not sure screen time is quite as evil as the media makes it out to me. During the summer, screens are off after dinner and stay off until 6am the next morning. But during the day it’s not really limited. They have to do something helpful first (fold laundry, make their lunch for camp, etc) and then they can do whatever they want on screens before and after camp. There are days where they have swim team or golf in addition to camp, so on those days it naturally limits itself. But I’d say they get at least 2 hours of screen time every day, more on weekends when there is no camp and no sports practice.

    During the school year we’re more strict – no screen time at all on school days – because we found they were rushing through school work just to get on the ipad. Not having it at all on those days has worked better than trying to limit it.

    I will say – some of the things they do on the computer blows my mind. They are so creative and doing so much with coding, building servers, etc — I think that’s all pretty useful stuff to learn.

  13. Well, we are on the very strict side. Part of that is because of certain tendencies of my oldest, and part is because, like many in the tech industry, I know too much about this stuff. Too many parents think that consuming digital media will somehow teach their kids something magic about computing, and that is simply not true. And I am really disturbed by some of the real icky stuff happening these days in the online gaming world, and I would rather my kids delay entry to that world as long as possible (much like drugs – you know they will try eventually but our job is to delay that as long as we can).

    So, none of my kids own a smartphone. They used to have a laptop, until my oldest repeatedly showed that he is so addictive that he can’t control himself. He actually begged me to get rid of the laptop. This seems to be innate. At his daycare, they had a “kiddie computer” that had been foisted on the school by well meaning parents (the teachers hated the thing, but there it was). My oldest would get on, and would stay on until they had to remove him forcibly. None of the other kids were like that. My own other two kids aren’t like that.

    We do have a computer in the kitchen, where my oldest does his school work. I keep pretty close watch on what he is doing on that machine, and do not give out the password. All of the kids can program, and are allowed unlimited time to do projects. In fact, the two oldest are in programming camp right now, where DS1 is learning to build hash tables in Java right now, and DS2 is learning Python. My DD did a 2 week STEM for girls earlier this summer, and wrote a program to get her robot through a maze. She is also adept in Scratch. The kids also know their way around Photoshop and some music composition package.

    When their friends are over, they all cluster around the downstairs computer and watch silly YouTube videos. That seems to be the equivalent of watching Gilligan’s Island reruns, which is what we did as kids.

    The other really weird trend is that the kids all love to watch YouTube videos of people playing online games. There are some really popular channels for this. One of my good friends is a prominent game author and expert, and has commented on Facebook on his bafflement at this trend. His opinion is that if kids would rather watch games being played than play them themselves, then the games are poorly designed.

    Oh, and finally, we have a cybersecurity program at my university, and one of the faculty goes around giving talks at high schools on cybersecurity for teens. He told me that any family with teens that does not have parental controls and monitoring at the router level is playing with fire. His area of expertise is cybercrimes, and he has stories involving teens that are really scary.

  14. One other thing – screen time also means traditional TV viewing. Our rule is that they can watch something in the evening when I am fixing dinner as long as they all agree on what it is and DO NOT SQUABBLE. We also watch either a movie or old Star Trek episodes on Friday nights as a family. We also have taken to watching Master Chef reruns on Fridays.

  15. Dell – having dealt with a child that had oral aversions and knowing a lot of kids who ended up with things like a g-tube for eating issues, I wouldn’t think twice about what you do. Lesser of two evils for sure! And 2 hours/day is what the AAP says you can do, so you aren’t even running afoul of that (not that it would really matter if you did). I think the rules are more for parents who would otherwise stick their kids in front of the TV all day (and they aren’t going to care about the rules, anyway).

  16. The cyber crime that Mooshi mentions is really important and parents need to be vigilant. NY is one of only 2 states (other is NC) that prosecutes all children as adults as soon as they turn 16. We have a program in our Town and surrounding Villages that sponsors a speaker series for the police to come into the schools to regularly speak to kids and parents about how to prevent becoming a victim, or getting arrested.

    Many, many kids do not realize that some of their behavior would be considered criminal, and even the detectives in NY wish they laws would change because they explained that 16 – 18 year olds do not have the fully developed cognitive skills to understand that their impulsive online behavior is wrong or even dangerous. They used the same examples about the formation of the brain that I’ve seen other speakers use when discussing organizational skills. They said that these skills are not fully developed until mid 20s, and it is unfair to expect the kids to just know how to behave unless we teach them, and coach them about how to act online.

    I’ve attended a few sessions, and I highly recommend one if your local communities offer something similar because I learned about apps that I never knew existed, but I found them on my DD’s phone already. Also, I learned about how to watch and understand how kids become victims even playing a simple game of mine craft in a hotel because the hotel wifi is hared etc.

  17. We are pretty flexible on screen time. I obviously don’t tell the 21 year old how she can spend her downtime. The 17 year old is constrained by school, homework, chores, clubs and exercise during the school year. In the summer, I’m sure he’s exceeding all common sense limits. He doesn’t drive and I’m in the office most days, so he is free to spend his time how he chooses as long as he gets required chores done and gets some exercise. He gets bored with screen time after a bit, so voluntarily does other things. He has a big school project to do and works on it without having to be nagged. As long as he does the things we ask/require without any complaining then I decided to not make an issue of the screen time. As Rhett frequently points out, he’ll be away at school where he will have to have the ability to control it himself, so I might as well start training him to do that now. I don’t have the same exposure as Mooshi to the pitfalls, so I have always viewed it as a fairly harmless past time.

  18. Including TV?

    Yes, including TV.* No screen time at all Monday – Thursday during the school year.

    *College basketball does not, and will not ever, count.

    @ Mooshi – our computer has parental controls that will kick a user off entirely after a certain amount of time. Would something like that be helpful to your oldest. Since we only have one family computer, we use the parental controls to be sure both kids have access to the computer. Otherwise, first one on would never yield to the second.

  19. I don’t worry too much about total screen time, but the addictive behavior is a real problem. DD becomes extremely defiant and abusive to me (verbal and even physical – she once threw an iPad at me) when I tell her it’s time to stop. Taking away the devices, or the threat to do so, has been our most effective disciplinary tool. I am going to set some very strict rules in my new house, which will also coincide with the beginning of the school year. Nothing until all homework is done, dinner & cleanup done, bath/shower done, lunch & backpack ready for the next day, dog walked, etc. And then there will be a cutoff time at which the devices must be left to charge in another room.

  20. The other really weird trend is that the kids all love to watch YouTube videos of people playing online games. There are some really popular channels for this. One of my good friends is a prominent game author and expert, and has commented on Facebook on his bafflement at this trend. His opinion is that if kids would rather watch games being played than play them themselves, then the games are poorly designed

    Our kids also LOVE to watch YouTube videos of people playing games, but the reason they love it is because they learn all the tricks/shortcuts/etc. So mine will watch on YouTube some video of someone playing Clash of Clans, and then they’ll get all excited and run over to their Clash of Clans account and use some trick they just learned. Same with MineCraft stuff. It seems pretty resourceful to me, actually.

  21. So, they have to wait till the weekend to catch up on the news

    Or, they are welcome to read the hard copies of the local paper and WSJ that are conveniently delivered just in time for breakfast every morning. (Which actually they do – our local paper at least)

  22. Just to be clear – they do not read the local paper front to back every morning. But if there’s something they’re interested in, I’ll show it to them and they will read the article.

  23. SWVAMom, what was happening with my oldest is that he would sneak the laptop into his bed, really late at night. Even after I hid it, he would go rummaging in our closet to find it, and then play in his bed between say 2am and 5am. And of course then he would be a zombie the next day. He was also going onto very sketchy sites, and even though we had anti malware and antivirus installed, eventuallly the laptop became unusesable because it was filled with malware. At that point, we got rid of it.

    I have a friend who has a son with similar addictive behavior who says they shut down the router at night, but they have had to lock it up as well.

  24. 3 kids, aged 6, 4 and almost 2. We allow unlimited screen time but very strictly limit content.

    I started writing this from the radiology office, where I had to ask the staff to turn off the news in the waiting room (nonstop coverage of gruesome murder).

    For TV, they may watch Nick Jr., Disney Jr., and PBS Kids. Sports are allowed if there is an adult in the room and all commercials are muted. We allow G-rated DVDs/Netflix as well. No SpongeBob due to bathroom humor, but I think DH flouted this rule once when I wasn’t home.

    Each child has an iPad and can play unlimited educational apps. My oldest two taught themselves to read letters, numbers, and sight words with Preschool Prep and its apps, so I do think it works for rote tasks. Eldest now has a lot of very good math apps and taught herself to read treble clef, and relaxes with Toca Boca. We tried YouTube for kids for a week but I felt they were wasting too much time watching surprise egg videos, so I deleted it.

    They are not allowed any internet access without an adult next to them, period.

    You lose your ipad if you throw it.

    I’m interested to see how those with older children manage it, as there is starting to be some peer pressure on my oldest to watch the “cool” shows.

  25. Lark,

    If they want to read more about Kepler after seeing the story in the WSJ – they have to wait till the weekend to google it?

  26. DD did not have a fracture, btw. Thank goodness. But no more trampoline parties, I don’t care if it’s her best friend ever.

  27. My kids tell me that they don’t watch the videos to learn tricks, but because they all enjoy the commentary. There are particular channels they watch because they like the commentator.

  28. We didn’t limit DSS’s screen time all that much. When he was younger, he was playing Age of Empires or similar with DH, and that was bonding. When he got older, he was developing games himself and I thought that was a reasonable thing to do.

    I spend way too much time on screens. I have a treadmill desk so at least I’m moving some of the time.

  29. One of my mailing list friends had a real scare with her 13 year old about 3 weeks ago, when she discovered that the 13 year old had been corresponding extensively with a man on one of the popular smartphone apps who was pretending to be a teen. She discovered it because she was contacted by the police. Evidently this guy had already been trying to lure another girl into meeting him. My friend confiscated the smartphone. Of course, my opinion is why does a 13 year old need a smartphone anyway? I don’t think 13 year olds are mature enough to be out on the open web without supervision, and smartphones are really hard to supervise.

  30. I don’t actively limit my kids time in front of screens. In winter, they watch more and in the summer they are outside more. Typically they don’t watch TV from when they get home from school/camp until after dinner. If homework/chores are done after dinner, I don’t care what they do. I’ve found them with the TV on as background noise while they play card games (together without fighting!!!). I’m OK with that. DS was on a video game kick for a while, but then he got bored with them. Most of them are too hard for him to do, so if DH isn’t playing with him, he doesn’t get far. DD has an iTouch that does not go into her bedroom and the family computer is visible to all. I’m terrified of the apps/online stuff as my kids get older. A middle schooler in the city near me was lured away from someone they met online. She was found safe several states away, but that scares the crap out of me. As they get older, I need to attend some of the meetings discussed above to know how to secure all the different devices.

  31. If they want to read more about Kepler after seeing the story in the WSJ – they have to wait till the weekend to google it?

    Rhett. I have boys that are essentially uncivilized monsters who are interested in (1) Minecraft hacks, (2) when their next meal is coming, and (3) whether their relay team is seeded first or second in the upcoming swim meet. Are there any circumstances under which they would ask to do some more research on a new planet discovery, and then actually spend the time on the computer doing so? NO. If that were their personality, I wouldn’t have to limit it on school days in the first place.

    I take my children as they are, not as I wish they were. Ahem.

  32. My older kid loves those You Tube videos. I confess to be not fully aware of all the pitfalls of online gaming. Any apps downloaded need me to key in my password. I’ve found that consistently sticking to the rules means that the kids will hand over their devices and find something else to do.
    At school, it seems they will be quite strict about having devices on you during school hours. I am not sure why DS needs a phone. He will use the school bus to go to and come from school. He can use his iPod to text us. I am reminded now of the Diary of the Wimpy Kid where his phone had two buttons: “Home” and “911”.

  33. the only time that we allow DD to wear make up is for dance recitals. She usually goes to the mother of one of the other girls in her dance class for makeup before a show. She did her own makeup for the most recent show, and it looked amazing. I asked her how she learned this – and she said you tube and some how to videos.

  34. I don’t think 13 year olds are mature enough to be out on the open web without supervision, and smartphones are really hard to supervise.

    That seems to tie into our free range parenting discussion. The idea that kids are helpless fools always in danger so parents need to be hyper-vigilant.

  35. My kids, and a lot of their friends, are also really into those fantasy card games. They play Dominion, and this summer, they are totally into Magic the Gathering. The library is even sponsoring a session for playing Magic. And get this – I have learned how to play and now even have my own personal deck. I also play Dominion with them all the time.

  36. Rhett, the library, or books already in the house, are a perfectly good way to find out more about Kepler. One of my complaints about our school in fact is that they give kids these research projects and tell them to go Google the information, without any guidance. My DD had to do a large report on Japan this spring, and had no idea how to find all the information she needed. So I marched her over to the library, where the children’s librarian promptly found her two kid books on Japan that had everything she needed, all in one neat package. The librarian told me that she cannot understand why the teachers don’t tell the kids to come to her, because she said she can help the kids do their research effectively.

  37. I also think that letting kids out on the open Internet is far more dangerous than letting them walk about their nice little leafy suburb. Teens that age do not have the skills to deal with the predators who are out there, as my friend’s scary brush with a predator illustrates.

  38. Have just received a diagnosis of ADHD for one kid and reading up on ADD in general (Driven to Distraction – Hallowell/Ratey), we are going to be even more strict about screen time and greatly limit it, even over the summer. Better to start early with this battle.

  39. Lark,

    Did the not go through a “why” phase? If they did, how did you manage it?

  40. Rhett, the library, or books already in the house, are a perfectly good way to find out more about Kepler.

    You have books about Kepler in your house and at the library?

  41. We don’t limit screen time as much as others do either. When I come downstairs one of the kids is usually already up and watching TV. I turn it off after I have my coffee so that they will come and eat something. I am also more lenient on weekends, particularly when it is extreme weather. They also have kindles but don’t use them much (I have to confess that I didn’t learn enough about how to put apps on them etc. when we got them, and now they are all full of stuff, won’t connect to the wireless, and I can’t figure out how to delete anything.)

    Now the older 2 are in camp (day camp) so their tv is limited to right before/right after dinner, which is what I remember from when I was a kid.

    I think we will end up limiting more as they get more homework.

  42. Mooshi: DS2 had a similar experience with a project on Russia in 6th grade. Children’s books are so helpful!

  43. Teens that age do not have the skills to deal with the predators who are out there, as my friend’s scary brush with a predator illustrates.

    That sounds hysterically overprotective to me. If they’re going to be preyed upon it will be by someone they know in real life (soccer coach, teacher, friend’s older brother or pervy dad, etc.) in 99% of the cases.

  44. Oh you are talking about that Earth2.0 thing, not the scientist or the 2013 Eclipse distro? But it doesn’t matter. The Earth2.0 thing will be all over the newspapers and yes we do subscribe.

  45. Rhett, again, it happened to my friend’s daughter. What was scary was that the daughter was falling for it and had given out identifying information, which is how the police made contact. My cybersecurity colleague says that this stuff happens constantly, and that teens really do not have the abilities to deal with these people. The problem with the Internet is that it exposes kids to a far wider range of contacts, in a way that is largely hidden from anyone else, than would have been the case when they just had to worry about their soccer coach.

  46. During the school year, I actually let my kids have their “junk” screen time as soon as they come home from school. That allows them to decompress from the day, and transition into “home” time. If I made them do homework first, they would do a rushed, half-assed job just to get to the screens. And then I would have to fight with them to re-do the work, and the interactions would be miserable for everyone. Getting the screen time out of the way upfront works well for us. During the school year, they generally get 30-60 minutes, with the exact amount on any given day depending on what else we have going on in the after-school hours. They get a little more in the summer.

    That said, the only screen time we limit is the “junk” — e.g. the games, the stupid YouTube videos, etc. If the kids want to research a topic that interests them, or write something, or some such, we don’t really limit screen time at all, as long as non-screen activities and chores are properly and timely attended to.

  47. @Rhett – a relative’s husband has an arrest for trying to solicit teens online. I was looking up her address and happened on it. After reading the details, Both DH and I were shocked. They had a similar age daughter as the teens he was trying to solicit. We are more aware and vigilant because of this.

  48. It isn’t just predators either. Cyberbullying is a huge problem, and then there are kids who think they are Junior Hacker, and get into big trouble trying to break into the school computers or some such. These are actions with real consequences. Kids who should know better, like my DS1 who had been through two years of mandatory school training on Internet safety, will still hit sketchy porn sites and allow every piece of evil malware on this planet into your home network. And no, your anti-malware won’t always protect you. I am sorry, you can give them all the Internet safety training you want, but when push comes to shove, they will forget. 13 year olds are really STUPID and they are mainly controlled by raging hormones.

  49. Rhett, again, it happened to my friend’s daughter…My cybersecurity colleague says…

    Isn’t that the same logic that has people calling the cops on those kids in VA? Is it any surprise that someone paid to be paranoid about security is paranoid about security?

    The share of teen girls who reported they’ve had sex at least once dropped from 51 percent in 1988 to 44 percent in 2013, they found. Abstinence was more pronounced among the guys: 60 percent of teen boys in 1988 said they’d had sex, compared to 47 percent in 2013.

    Your theory is despite the decline in teen sex there is some hidden epidemic of online predation Are the shrinking minority of kids that are actually having sex doing it exclusively with online predators, or?

  50. How do you all handle screen time when kids have friends over? These days, when one of my kids has a friend over, the kid spends most of his or her time on the computer or kindle with the friend. (To be clear, the kid and the friend are both involved in the online activity — it’s not that my kid is playing by him/herself, and ignoring the friend.) They’re in a place where I can see what’s going on, and they’re just doing things like playing Minecraft or watching silly YouTube videos, so I’m not worried about the content. But it seems to me that they should be doing something together other than staring at a screen. But then again, maybe I’m just old and totebaggy and too quick to try to micro-manage my kids’ playdates. Do you all set rules for how much time during a visit from a friend can be spent in front of a screen?

  51. We have a (distant!) family friend who was just sentenced for child p*orn (I don’t know if we censor this word?) possession. 2 years prison plus 10 years probation. I sometimes worry that prosecutors will also prosecute teens for sexting, but I don’t know how MA deals with that…will have to research before our kids get phones.

  52. Did the not go through a “why” phase? If they did, how did you manage it?

    I’m not sure I understand the question. As I recall, they went through such a strong and powerful why stage that I told them they were only allowed to ask me 10 why questions each day, and after that they would have to find someone else to ask.

    I think your larger point is that if they’re curious about something important and intellectual, shouldn’t I allow them to explore it on a Tuesday school night? For now, the answer is no. I actually have very little problem in theory with screen time on a school night. However, they have demonstrated a lack of ability to manage screen time well on school nights. Second, I don’t want to be in the position of judging what is worthy and what isn’t. A planet may seem more high brow than Minecraft, but fundamentally the issue is can they manage their screen time responsibly, not is what they’re doing totebaggy enough. And finally, if they’re really, truly that curious about it, they’ll still be curious on Friday afternoon.

    North of Boston – I did try your approach, but for some reason they would end the screen time session super grumpy & irritable. So we just said fine, no screen time during the week for now. And frankly, I don’t think it’s such a bad thing to learn you just can’t do everything you want to do every single day – some things have to be delayed until you have larger chunks of time, like weekends and vacations.

  53. they have demonstrated a lack of ability to manage screen time well on school nights

    As in they didn’t do their homework? Or, is it that you have aesthetic objections to what they choose to do with their time when left to their own devices?

  54. “How do you all handle screen time when kids have friends over?”

    When friends are over, as long as the sites they visit and the games they play are age appropriate, screen time limits are not applied. The limits are not applied to “family time” either, when we watch TV together.

  55. Rhett – homework was suffering. If they consistently got their homework done (thoroughly, not half-assed, and they have very little ‘busy’ work so this is not asking too much) and still had 30 – 60 minutes to kill before supper time, I would have no problem with it. As evidenced by the fact that I don’t limit it in the summertime.

  56. This will be a big issue in the Rhode house. DH loves games on his iphone or through facebook. DS loves looking at the iphone/TV. If you put the iphone in front of him and use the front camera, he’ll hold it and try to touch the baby. I’m sure he’s just interested in himself, but he did manage to send a friend a text one day.

    Dell- this may or may not make you feel better, but Baby Rhode hates tummy time with a passion matched only by the fiery blazes of hell. The only way he will do tummy time is if he’s watching real TV or fishy TV (a little crib attachment that looks like an aquarium). We’ve been successful with just fishy TV and a moving train (new toy), but for about 5 months it was all TV.

  57. My son also went through a phase where he liked to watch those videos of people playing online games. One online game he plays a lot has a big tournament coming up, and the prize pot is currently over $17M, and it’s not closed yet. So part of me thinks “the hell with studying, get upstairs and log in to DOTA!”

  58. I am much more laissez-faire with screen time. I don’t have fixed limits. I’ll kick them all off from time to time, and I’ll sometimes do router holidays (except not this summer b/c it’s too hard on my daughter while she’s laid up with her broken leg), but there’s so much of the schoolwork that’s online that I can’t just set a hard and fast ‘screens off’ and of course a kid who’s online working on an assignment in Google Docs or doing the required daily Khan or IXL is a kid who can click over to another tab when I’m not looking. Even during the summer, my oldest is taking an online college course so I can’t expect him to work on his weekly essay or post comments in the online forum without computer access. So, my youngest is apparently doing Xena the Warrior Princess camp, my daughter is watching all the Yogscast, and my oldest is getting his work done but not much beyond that, and also reading 20 zillion online game-based novels. He says it’s not technically fanfic, but the writing and editing looks to be pretty much fanfic quality.

    My oldest is addictive the way MooshiMooshi describes her oldest, and it’s very frustrating, but I view learning to be a productive person in a world that has unlimited entertainment on the same machine you use for work as the great challenge of their generation, and one that he’ll have to master if he ever wants to go off to college and succeed. So we just keep wrestling with it. When he backslides, his grades slip.

  59. BTW, my oldest had a huge flamewar with a friend of his last spring after his friend DDOS’ed our IP address based on being my son’s Skype contact. The friend sees himself as a hacker. Part of the bitterness was because my son called him a script kiddy. My son deleted him as a contact, blocked him, and wasn’t on speaking terms until after we got back from our trip.

  60. @WCE know I’ll be constantly interrupted if I try to read a real book

    This is why we have so many magazine subscriptions. I started upping our magazine count during the nursing years, and I’ve never really winnowed it because they’re handy for some school projects, the kids do read them some, and I continue to be constantly interrupted when I try to sit down and read. Based on some of the junk mail we get, there are mailing lists out there that think we’re a doctor’s waiting room.

  61. One of my kids started out being a voracious book reader, and then “graduated” to spending hours online reading about everything under the sun. It certainly seems a bit addictive, and hard for him to control. He’s a news junkie and simply curious. However, he was able to graduate from college and now has a job in journalism where he says he has to spend hours online on many of the same sites he’s frequented for years. So far it’s seemed to have worked out ok. [knocking on wood!]

  62. HM – I would love to visit your house and read those magazines. I can count on reading Food and Wine at one relative’s house. We dropped off a good number of mailing lists when we moved.

  63. While the article is great, the comments are fantastic! “STFU, Parents” column in the making. Now I’ll be singing “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah!” on the way home from work..

  64. Regarding Rhett’s post,I can’t imagine thinking that much about my child’s inner life. I am largely ignorant of what happens at school. Regarding screen time, part of my opposition in summer is how many other great things there are to do. My tolerance during rainy winter days is much higher

  65. Louise, you’re always welcome! And, Food and Wine is one of the available selections.

  66. Rhett, just because an acquaintance is more likely to be a predator is not a reason to take no precautions against online predators.

  67. A parent,

    There are only so many hours in the day, it’s wise to focus on things that are actual threats vs. media hype.

  68. To the engineers and tinkerers on the board: how hard would it be to create something like this at home?

    Unlike the model, only things of limited value would be transported (i.e. no living creatures), so precision is less critical. Also, would it be possible to have a non-permanent installation (that wouldn’t leave holes)?

  69. MidA – One of my favorite movies!! When something bad happens to the dog and the only apartment with no lights on is Raymond Burr’s – just the light from his cigarette is shown – a great scary moment.

  70. Costofcollege – I just sent you a topic – please let me know if you don’t receive it!

  71. We’re pretty lax on the screen time are feeling is that we’d rather have the kids be open with what they’re watching her surfing online until we know what’s going on. This way we can talk to them about what they’re seeing and doing rather than have them do it in secret and not telling us anything. It seems to be working out pretty well so far. We’ve had some very good discussions with the kids about things that I never would’ve talked to my parents about.

  72. I’m much more concerned with posting stupid things on Facebook, sexting, cyberbullying, online privacy/dangers of oversharing, etc. I lecture endlessly on these topics.

  73. HM–Yes, something like that! Thank you. Presumably I could attach a small laundry basket or a, ahem, totebag to the hook instead of the gambrel.

    ssk–Agreed, such a great scene! And I love Grace Kelly’s wardrobe. Though if I could figure out how to pack as lightly as she did in the movie, I wouldn’t be considering a pulley system. :-) But then again, she was packing for pre-baby activities…not post!

  74. MidA – I read that Mark Cross is bringing back the Attache Case that Grace used. It was very expensive, but beautiful!

  75. Eight pairs of mesh shorts and a swim diaper were delivered to my house this week, and I realized that it is far easier to shop online than to visit stores with four children. (I’m solo parenting for a few weeks this summer.) We had a new door installed today for which we shopped/researched online.

    My kids are young enough that sexting isn’t a concern and we don’t have separate devices in part because my kids are mesmerized by screens. Some of that would abate with greater use, but not all- our relatives have commented on how mesmerized by kids are by the TV compared to their kids. Their kids have grown up with the TV on all the time, so it’s just background noise to them. We have Netflix but not cable and our location (between two mountain ranges and near no large cities) means that broadcast TV is limited.

    I’m trying to help my children develop a sustained ability to focus on boring stuff. DS1 just started piano and at least initially, I need to sit down with him to help him practice. Khan Academy may support that type of sustained focus, but most apps/games don’t.

    And combining focus with my post I missed on out-of-print books, here’s a link to the science biography chapter book we’re reading for bedtime right now, in case someone wants to risk $0.01 plus shipping on sharing my taste.

  76. Didn’t have time to read, but. I grew up typical 70s kid, lots of time outside etc.. Brother and I were allowed 1 hour of tv a week during the week. If we could work together and watch each other’s shows then we could potentially get 2 hours a week. As an adult I love tv and have one in almost every room, including the bathroom. My brother, not so much. I think we might be wired to love it or not and parents may have very little influence. This is from my N of 2.

  77. “For those of you with older kids, how do you manage their screen time?”

    DS is just a bit older than your DD. We don’t manage it much. I figure he’s about 2 years from leaving for college, and he’s met and exceeded our expectations for schoolwork, he practices without being nagged (although I’d prefer he spent less time watching youtube and more time practicing), and does most of his chores, albeit with a certain level of nagging required.

  78. OK, I knew that watching YouTube videos of people playing games is popular, but I had no idea how popular. Evidently PewDiePie, who is a wellknown celeb who makes these videos, made 4.7 million dollars off ad revenue last year.
    “YouTube’s biggest star these days is an often shrieky Swedish video gamer known as PewDiePie who makes $4.7 million a year just from YouTube ads, according to OpenSlate. PewDiePie, whose real name is Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, drew twice as many views for a two-minute clip showing him singing with his pug dog than any of the NBA Finals games. Over his career, the 25-year-old has logged 9 billion total video views.”

  79. Joey Graceffa is another one my daughter likes.

    Remember at the beginning of ET how Elliott’s older brother and friends wouldn’t let him play D&D with them and were jerks about it? I think for kids watching the videos is like having cool older siblings who let you hang around with them and their funny friends while they game together, instead of insulting you and complaining to mom like actual siblings would.

  80. During the school year, DS gets 10 minutes of screen time when he gets home before he starts homework. That was a compromise that has worked to avoid the sloppy homework effort to get to the nightly screen time. DS set an ambitious academic goal for himself last year, he worked hard, and he achieved his goal. I want him to be able to have some down time/goof off time when he has finished his homework & chores. He probably does more screen time than he should, and he would happily do more than he gets, but so do his two parents. This is going to be a continuing challenge, but I’d rather have him work on this challenge while he is still under our roof.

    Starting in 6th grade he needed to be online to do homework, and he would create study aids online too. Next year his math text will be iPad-based, so he’ll have yet another device to manage that offers both academic requirements and entertainment. He’s had a dumb phone for a year, and we recently added texting to his plan, and now he’s getting invitations to go skateboarding with boyscouts from his troop. So we need to balance technology for academic/learning purposes, social connections, and pure entertainment with present risk of addictive game playing.

  81. I accompanied some teens to a couple of book signings by YouTube authors. The lines to meet the authors went for blocks, and it was clear these guys were like rock stars to their fans.

  82. A lot of posters mentioned that they did not let their kids have screen time until after their kids had done their chores. I was wondering what chores you make your kids do. My teenager does her own laundry, but other than that she has no chores. Her room and her bathroom are her responsibility, and if she wants to keep them messy and dirty that is her business. She doesn’t have any daily farm chores, but she does help out when we need her. I do pay her when the work is hard and dirty, but other times she works for nothing but food on the table and a roof over her head.

  83. My kids do chores, but they are not tied to screen time. Some chores they do just because that is what is expected. Other chores get some payment. All the kids are expected to help prep the dinner, set the table, and clear their own places when done. They are supposed to keep their rooms cleaned up but that is a constant battle. They are supposed to put their dirty clothes into the laundry basket, and put their clean clothes away. They are supposed to pick up after themselves in the house in general. In addition, my oldest mows the lawn and helps with other yard tasks. He also takes out the trash and recycling, and keeps the cat’s food area clean. The rest of us cycle the job of keeping the litterbox clean (my oldest can’t because he has a mild cat allergy and it turns out that the litterbox is one of the worst allergy triggers). My second kid is supposed to clean the table where we eat and sweep the dining room floor each day. It takes a lot of reminding though. He also is responsible for hauling in the empty trash cans. The youngest gets paid $3 a week for clearing all the trash out of the cars. Oh, and they are all supposed to empty the dishwasher when needed.

  84. Like Mooshi, we do not pay for chores, but expect them to be done before leisure activities (hanging out with a friend, video games, etc.). The kids take out the trash, DS1 mows the lawn (DS2 is not big enough yet), they empty the dishwasher, set the table, and clean their rooms.

    We expect a decent level of cleanliness in their personal spaces. Some clutter is OK, but we expect them to have a generally tidy desk, bathroom, etc. The kids are good about their chores and rarely need more than one reminder.

  85. Roughly the same chores here, plus on-demand stuff. Laundry, setting and clearing the table, tidying up whatever mess they’ve made in the common spaces, loading and emptying the dishwasher, carrying in and putting away groceries (occasionally doing the shopping for the older one), and doing the pre-clean for the cleaning people in their spaces. For larger jobs like mulching or helping their dad on garage projects we don’t pay cash, but I’ll typically get them something they’ve been wanting to show my appreciation. If my oldest does things like my Target or dry cleaning runs I’ll pay for a tank of gas or dinner out for her and boyfriend.

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