Sorting Things Out- Limiting Screen Time

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This is a sight you will frequently see at my house. My husband and kids are tech junkies. I’m not necessarily saying it’s a bad thing. Technology is the way of the world today, and it’s here to stay, so being knowledgeable in this area is certainly an asset. Having said that, it brings up certain issues regarding boundaries. Specifically the dilemma of limiting screen time.

Now, when I say “screen time,” it can mean anything, well…with a screen- TV, computers, tablets, etc. I know TV is a problem for many people, so the same discussion can be applied to that, but our main issue is gaming. My kids (and husband) love it.

I’ve read literature supporting both sides of the issue, and, to further complicate things, there are arguments that I agree with on both sides. (I find that I’m always complicating things for myself. It’s in my nature.) So I’m going to work through these arguments and see if I can come to some sort of conclusion.

I guess I’ll start with the unlimited screen time point of view. First of all, there is much to be learned from any of the applications these mediums can be used for. The internet is great for researching, reading, and connecting with friends. Who needs encyclopedias when we’ve got Wikipedia, right? And while many people outright loathe gaming, there are so many things to be learned from it.

For example, in Minecraft, geometry and logic, at the very least, are used to build structures- elaborate structures. There’s math. You can make maps. That’s geography. You have to learn what substances to mix with what in order to make things, such as glass (fire and sand). You can also use flowers to make different types of dye. Science. And there’s also an abundance of vocabulary words shown. When you hover over an object with your mouse, it will tell you what the object is. It can be as easy as “wood” or as difficult as “iron ingot.” Language Arts. That’s coming from my limited understanding of the game; I’m sure I’m missing a lot, but, hopefully, I’ve made my point.

Another game popular with my family is World of Warcraft. Again, I wasn’t too thrilled when my husband went out and got the WOW accounts- until I actually took the time to watch this game for a few minutes. There is so much strategic planning and so much going on at once that my head would be spinning, but my kids are great at it. They’re better able to focus on more things at once while still noticing little details in the background. And mapping? Let me tell you, because of this game, my kids’ map skills blow me out of the water. If we ever get lost and have only a road map to help us, guess who’s going to be navigating, and it’s not going to be me!

Pretty cut and dry, right? My kids are enjoying themselves while learning so many things, so what’s the problem? Well, that’s what I’m getting to.

The use of electronics, especially gaming, can be extremely addicting. And I know that I’ve said before how it’s great when my kids can immerse themselves in their interests, so what’s the difference? Well, it’s a fine line for me. First off, kids need exercise. They need to get out and breathe fresh air. I also happen to know that there are so many things that my kids truly enjoy that will get neglected if I don’t step in. Devin enjoys reading and art and Sherlock. Dillon loves origami and drawing and science experiments. These aren’t interests that I’m forcing on them; these are passions of theirs that they, unintentionally, start to neglect because of being unable to self-regulate. Devin has always been the type of girl who will easily read 3-4 books a week. She used to sit and read for hours and hours everyday. Just recently, however, she asked me to remind her to read because she forgets when she’s on her computer. Okay, that’s a big mayday. Devin never needed to be reminded to read before, and she recognizes that there’s a problem, so she’s asked me to intervene. Not good.

Right now I do have a period of time everyday that the TV goes off and all electronics are to be turned off. You would think I was pulling their teeth at the looks on their faces. And then come the excuses.
“Mom, can I look up science experiments on YouTube?”
“Can I go online and look up Mongolian Death Worms?” (Yes, Dillon actually did research them the other day.)
“Can I watch a makeup tutorial? I want to know how to make my own eye shadow.”
“Can I go on Minecraft and build a donjon instead of drawing one?”

And now I’ve gotten to the heart of the problem. I truly do think that there has to be a limit on electronics, but the harsh reality is, even if these are excuses, they’re still supporting the exploration of other interests- and that’s what I’m trying to promote in the first place! I just can’t win! Am I actually hindering them with this rule by removing the best tool there is for researching? It’s so exasperating!

And here’s where you come in! This is where I need your advice. Have you been through something similar? Do you regulate screen time, especially if you’re unschooling? How can I find a happy medium? I can’t tell you enough how much I’m looking forward to some fresh opinions on this topic. Hopefully, I’ll talk to you soon!

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Author: Shelly Sangrey

I'm Shelly, a Christ-following, homeschooling Mom of eleven children ( okay, not ALL children. My oldest is 23.) I met my husband right after graduation, and we've been together ever since. Though my life can be hectic at times... okay, ALL the time, I wouldn't change it for anything.

18 thoughts on “Sorting Things Out- Limiting Screen Time”

  1. Been looking forward to this post and then I realized I don’t really have an opinion. Well I do, but not an experienced one. So here it is, if you can see that screen time is equal to all other activities I think it’s perfectly fine. In other words I think when passions go by the wayside for screen time, it’s bordering addiction. So for me that would mean really paying attention to how much time is spent where and intervening when it heads down that road. But you got 10 kiddos at home (I didn’t forget about your oldest) so maybe it has to look like, instead of it being a limit, it’s a privilege gained only from spending time on other things. Example, 5 chapters a day equals as much computer time as you want. Oh, I can feel my ancestors rolling their eyes. But if you can honestly saying they are learning, then that is the end result we want, right?

    Also, Don’t go to Goldshire! I could see from the picture your son was headed to Goldshire. NOOO! All the really bad things happen in Goldshire.The language filter will not help.
    Stay .Out. Of. Goldshire. Tell your husband. All joking aside, it really depends on the realm, but there generally are some pretty blush worthy conversations that go on in Goldshire.

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  2. Wow! Thanks for the warning about Goldshire. I have to admit that I laughed at the fact that you could tell where he was from the picture. I will tell my husband, though. I’ve thought of using the game as a reward for doing other things, but I’m hesitant to do that because I don’t want them to start thinking of their interests as chores. You know what I mean? Maybe I’m overanalyzing. I’m good at that!

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  3. I struggle with knowing what to do about “screen time” as well. There is so much that is educational, BUT I still want my kids to know how to function in the “here and now” too. I wish there was just a perfect “do this” and everything will be perfect button. Oh well, it’s a process I suppose – like so many things in life.

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  4. Screen time is a tough one, specially with the American Academy of Pediatrics suggestion of no more than 1-2 hours per day. With older kids and research, that one can be very difficult. Minecraft is amazing and spatially/logically educational–I love it but it can definitely take over a kid’s life. We had to cut our child off of it for a while for that very reason. Although you (and your husband) won’t get any awards from your children, a no-tech or low-tech time each day is a great idea! When they complain, just tell them that they, too, can create awful torturous rules when they’re parents. Hang in there!

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  5. We are struggling with too much screen time. I tend to get sucked into facebook and my oldest (who is only 10) gets sucked into Pinterest. She has stopped reading books as much as she used to as well. It’s hard to find the right balance. If the games they are playing or the videos they are watching are helping them learn, then that’s a good thing. Then again, going outside and breathing in some fresh air is also a good thing. Is it just me, or do kids not play outside as much as they used to? I know that the answer to that question is really dependent on the type of kid you have or where you live in the world… but it seems more like a rarity these days than a given.

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    1. My kids definitely don’t go out as much as I did, but that’s because we live in the city and have a tiny yard- not a great place for ten kids. I’m looking forward to warmer weather when I can walk them to the creek, or we can play at the parkway. That’s when most of our science will take place.

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  6. Great topic! I think most people struggle with this. I don’t know what’s the right way and wrong way to handle it, but in our house we’ve limited GAME time to Fridays after school and Sundays after church. On Saturday there is absolutely no screen time for anything (it’s our family day) and the rest of the week recreational TV only during the evenings, but both TV and computers are available all day for educational reasons (videos or sites related to that days subjects). My almost 7 year old is a huge Minecraft fan and would play it 24/7 if allowed. This was the reason we started limiting GAME time. However, I also think it is a great learning tool for him. Oh, the dilemma! lol

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    1. Those are great ideas. Thank you! I like that you separate game time from using computers for educational reasons. I think part of my problem is I’ve been trying to implement a rule that didn’t allow any computer use during certain times.

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  7. I’m a new parent, so I will warn you up front that I have absolutely no experience with this issue. However, working in a technician support environment, it is something I think about often. My daughter at 9 months already loves the TV, especially her “Baby First TV” shows and sometimes I’m afraid that it will grow into something unhealthy. One thing that I was thinking was that it might not be possible to find a “happy medium” with a blanket rule that applies to the whole house. My thought is (and this may not be realistic with 10 children to monitor), maybe instead of making a general household rule, things could be dealt with more individually for each child. So you can give them the freedom to access the internet, games, television as long as it doesn’t get to the point where it’s being abused, and the kids other interests are also being pursued. So maybe it’s a privilege to be able to go online and have the freedom to investigate your interests using media tools and resources, however if that becomes the only thing that they are working on then you can intervene and maybe start with a sit down conversation about how you are concerned that they are forgetting about the other things that they enjoy doing. You want to give them freedom, but with freedom comes responsibility. If they can’t pull themselves away from the tech. then you can institute a “tech time out” for that child individually, or even a “technology probation” where you can set a time limit or have them justify the reason they need to use the computer either before they use it or even after. If they use the computer then they can write about what they did, what they learned (maybe throw a little Language Arts in there).
    I realize that this is a lot to keep track of and monitor so it may not be feasible. But mostly I was thinking that if you were able to take an individualized approach with the kids, that it could be an opportunity to give them each the freedom that you strive for but you and your husband still make the final decision on what is too much for each child individually, instead of a group or family rule. This might solve your conflict about making and changing rules for your kids too. You don’t have to feel like you are making new rules or changing the rules all of the time. The “rule” can be flexible and adapted to each situation, to whatever makes you feel comfortable and meets each child’s individual needs.

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  8. Hmmm my answer could be too long. I’ll try a short version:

    No TV in my house for 15 years either weren’t interested in screens or were limited to one hour.

    Time passed. Lots of tablets, phones and laptops appeared. Still no TV. Kids had to earn screen time.

    Now there are just two kids, tablets, phones, laptops and TV. Game over. It’s out of control. LOL! Although I did write a lovely series on it last year if you want to see it.🙂

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  9. This is a really great topic and actually VERY important to me. There are so many complexities to who, what, where, when and why of screen time.

    Here is what I do: I keep in mind what my end is. WHAT is it that I am aiming for for my kids. And then keep myself in check to see if we are going in that direction. So…the answer for ME and my family may not be the answer for YOU and your family. After all, we don’t all want exactly the thing. And we don’t all have the same kids!!

    It is nice to hear the experiences and opinions of others. It is great food for thought. But in the end, NO ONE knows and loves your kids like YOU do! For every mom out there: Trust yourself!! Mom know best!😉

    Thanks again for a great post!! xoxo

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