Sunday, April 18, 2010

Chinks in the Armor

Reporting back on our lives without television.  Remember how one of the benefits of only having a computer is that its use is password protected?  A little problem with this occurs when I am trying to take a nap and the boys are home from school.  They have discovered that if they awaken me from my nap, and ask for my password,  I will usually give it to them, roll over, and go back to sleep.  When I wake up, I am surprised to see them on the computer.  "Hey, I thought your screen time was over," I say.  "It was," they reply, "but you gave us your password so that you could keep sleeping."  Hmm...

Things like this happen: Dan brings Adam home from an outpatient surgery to remove a growth on his lip.  The stitches are causing him extreme anxiety, and he is hysterical.  Dan suggests that the thing Adam needs most is to be "plugged-in."  I immediately cave, with only the weakest breath/ just the half-formed thought of protest sounding faintly in my mind. 

Eli spends two days home from school with pink eye.  He begs for computer time because he is "so bored."  I agree to 30 minutes.  When it is over I hear him asking his three-year-old sister if she wants to watch some cute pink Pokemon.  The next thing I see is Eli logged-on to Esther's account, using her 30 minutes to watch some more of his movie.  When that time ends, he wants to know if he can have Adam's time, or if I will just let him use my account during the 2-3 hours of naptime in the afternoon.

When I say no, there will be no screen time today, or no, we will not extend screen time past each child's 30 minute allotment, one of the most common responses is that it is not fair that I get as much screen time as I want.  When I tried to explain to Eli earlier this week that I do not sit around playing computer games and watching movies when I'm having screen time, he said, "can I have more screen time if I promise not to play any games or watch any movies?"  He wanted to do Pokemon "research"--he is creating recipes using fruits and berries from the Pokemon world.

I'm kind of spineless.  I do not like it when my children are angry with me.  I don't like having to say "no" to them over and over and over again.  I start to question I being too extreme?  Would it really hurt them to have a few more minutes?  Can I survive this day without my nap?  Would I be willing to give up using the computer so that I could ask them to do the same?

The system that has been working pretty well is that they cannot have any screen time M-F, but then the weekend often turns into a free-for-all screen orgy.  This is not exactly how I envisioned things.  Because of all the begging, pleading, whining, cajoling, related to screens, I would really just like to throw this computer out the window sometimes so that I can get some peace while, at the same time, sticking to my guns.  But it is such a beautiful iMac!

When I got rid of the television and DVD players, I also got rid of nearly every DVD and VHS tape we owned.  I kept the "Sunday" viewing...movies made by the church, or about the scriptures.  If I then restrict library trips to Friday afternoons or Saturday mornings, and then return all the DVDs they've checked out Sunday or Monday morning, there is less temptation in the house.  But as long as we have internet, there is always plenty for them to do online (and for me), even without owning a single game, Wii, X-Box, etc.

I have tried a system in which I promise to have no screen time until they are in bed for the night, after 9 p.m.  This kind of works, as long as I'm consistent.  But I like my screen time, too, and I justify it by saying that I need the computer to run the bills, look up phone numbers, communicate through email, store and order photos, do family history research...

We've gotten off track recently because the last week of February was midwinter break and then the first week of April was spring break.  Regulating the screen time is much harder for me when the boys are home all day.  They really struggle to take "no" for an answer, and I really struggle to be consistent.  Summer is right around the corner, and I really want to figure this out.  This morning both boys are back at school, and here comes Esther asking for her 30 minutes of screen time.  Just a week ago, she had completely stopped asking for screen time on weekdays, because I just said "no" every time.  Darn that pink eye of Eli's and that mouth surgery of Adam's.


Suzanne said...

Ahhhh, there's the rub. I'm not as brave as you, but have implemented similar rules with wii time. It is a NIGHTMARE keeping it consistent. Weekends or illness are also very, very difficult. Keep up the good fight. You're doing great!

LL said...

Stick to your guns! It is SO HARD, but you are doing a good thing.

One thing you might try: A friend of mine does has a system for the kids allowance. She wrote a bunch of chores on popsicle sticks, and there is a main cup and each kid has a cup. They have chores they are expected to do (she sticks them in the kids cups), and if they complete them they get paid the price on the stick. But on, like, Friday night or Saturday morning, any chores that haven't been completed are available for anyone to do, and whoever completes the chore gets the money (or, in your case, screen time). You could have them earn their 30 minutes and up to another, say, 30.

I don't have such a problem with screen time when they have worked and earned a reward. Seems less bad than when they're just parked there vegging out. Always a bit of a pain to set something like this up, but once you've got it in place I think the kids would keep it going on their own.

Also, my mom had problems with my brother getting on the TV/computer all the time, so she got this plug thing that you plug the computer or TV into, and you can't unplug it without a code. Kind of like a bike lock for electronics, not to prevent theft of the item itself, but theft of time. :-) Devious. Worked like a charm.

Another idea: make a separate account on your computer and call it Admin, and make that the only account with admin privileges. Then give yourself (current account) a time limit. That way, even if they log in as you, they're limited to half an hour. And when you use it yourself, you can just use the admin account instead (different password!)

Holy long comment Batman. Shut up LL! Miss you! So proud that you're even attempting to control the screen time - I gave up after Mauricio was about 6 months old.

Melinda said...

What exactly happened with Adam's mouth? Is he ok?

Amber said...

you make me smile!!

Jill said...

You've done a great thing! I tried to get the plug-in drug at the library, but it's a popular book. Our screen time has been cut down considerably since our only tv is in the freezing basement. Things will come up like sickness and such, but that doesn't mean you're starting from scratch. It just means your children need gentle reminders about what the rules are. With the weather turning really nice, I just remind them that who wants to be inside when you can be outside!? Keep up the great work! It's important that we teach our children great principles so eventually they will choose to make the same choices when we're not holding their hand.