Even though we have computers, a TV, and cell phones, I consider my home a low media home. We do not have a game system, satellite TV, or a DVD player in our car. I know. We are so old school. However, even though our devices are limited, we still face the same dilemma many parents face, how much screen time is okay and how do I manage it as a parent? By some accounts, kids today are spending as many as five hours a day in front of screens including cell phones, TVs, tablets, and computers. That is terrible in my opinion! How are kids playing outside, reading, helping around the house, or doing schoolwork if they are spending that much time staring at screens?
I got a little dose of this reality last summer when my kids wanted nothing more than Netflix, cell phone games, and computer time. Out of nowhere I had a house full of screenheads! I knew I had to do something and fast so I made up some screen time punch cards. At first the kids moaned and groaned but in no time they were on board and things were under control again.
Here’s how it works. Each Monday my kiddos get a punch card with 10 punches. Each punch is worth 30 minutes of screen time. That means they can buy a maximum of 5 hours per week of screen time. I do not make them use punches for a family movie night or homework computer time so their total screen time may actually be higher some weeks. Almost immediately the kiddos began to make better choices about what they were doing with their time and carefully considering every screen time choice. Some weeks they actually had punches left over (I do not roll over punches though).
One tip before I share the cards, you will not have success with this unless you give your kiddos alternatives to the screen. I hung up a list of 40 things to do if you are bored and when my kiddos would complain I would point the to the list. It worked great.
Here are two versions of the screen time punch card, one red and one blue. Click on the images and you will be taken to a pdf version with six cards per page. Print it out on card stock.
I hope this helps your family, too.