I’m sure you have heard many times about various options to limit and control screen time for children. Well, we took it a step further and worked out a Family Screen Contract. Why? Because we believe in role modelling and fairness.
Why would we – as sensible and reasonably mature adults – impose restrictions on ourselves? I suppose it has to do with age and the fact that we make more conscious choices. And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Priorities and choices. We all get 86,400 seconds = 1,440 minutes = 24 hours per day. It’s up to us to choose how we want to spend this extremely valuable commodity, as we can’t save and accumulate it or use more than we have – it has to be used right here and now, or it’s gone.
Here is why we have created a Family Screen Contract and how it all came about.
Note: We are only talking about screen time for entertainment and not for work or communication.
Screen time limits for children
We have tried quite a few popular techniques to limit our children’s screen time, but nothing really worked. Often it was too hard to follow through, or we, the parents, weren’t good enough at following through with consequences. So no wonder it didn’t work! A few months back, screen time around our house went out of control for various reasons. One was that a screen is a great and cheap babysitter. The kids are happy, and we can work. Eventually, the daily arguments at ‘switching off time’ became too much, and we went cold turkey – well, more or less. We decided not to allow any screen time at all on school days and to give them two hours each day on Saturday and Sunday.
Wow, what an amazing change! Of course they asked for screen time at the beginning, but they gave up pretty quickly. Can’t blame them; we would have tried as well when we were their age (almost 8 and 10). Our family life immediately became more peaceful. All of a sudden, I had helpers in the kitchen who wanted to assist in preparing dinner. They played together more and became more creative and crafty. They rediscovered certain toys and were playing happily. We had peaceful family dinners and great conversations. In short, everyone was so much more relaxed. What a difference!
This somewhat extreme trial was a great success. We all assumed we would reintroduce screen time on school days eventually, and we did. Same story – huge arguments despite very clear rules and agreements. So, what should we do? During a family meeting, we all agreed that it had been much more peaceful when there was no screen time allowed on school days. We then agreed that we should make a contract with new rules. But during the discussion, it also came up that it should really be a family contract and not just parents dictating rules to the children. Hence, the idea was born that the parents will have restrictions, too. Fair enough!
As a next step, we adjourned our meeting to think about consequences if somebody breeches the contract. Yes, including consequences for the parents! A few days later we sat down again, and after some discussion, we all agreed on the rules, conditions and consequences.
The finished product, a typed and printed contract, was signed by all four parties and is now hanging in our living room.
The Family Screen Contract has only been in place for a few weeks, and so far it has worked a treat. The benefits clearly outweigh any negatives. To be honest, I can’t even think of a single negative so far. And as an extra benefit, our boys are learning how to control their time expenditure and are hopefully learning an invaluable life skill. And we? We enjoy this freed-up time as well and don’t miss the TV at all.
You might wonder what all this has to do with being organised. Well, I think it has a lot to do with it. For me, being organised means living a simpler life, and time management is a major part of this. It’s about knowing one’s priorities and making choices. By limiting our screen time, we have set priorities and made choices that suit us. Time will tell how well it will work – I’ll keep you posted!
This is how a Family Screen Contract could look like: Example Family Screen Contract and here you can download a free Word template to create your own: