For a family of four, we are quite the diverse crowd when it comes to entertainment, including our 2 year old who has her own TV channels – I remember the days when there was no baby focused channels; kids just watched the day shows and news along with the adults. This, along with our computers (especially with the advent of online learning) have been in high demand and time managing who uses it when has been a significant source of anxiety in our house.
When our toddler isn’t in daycare she gets priority, with learning programs, Sesame Street and kid songs – some of which are ridiculously catchy, especially when you are humming them in your head as you try to sleep at 1:00 a.m. in the morning. However we did establish some rules to make allow for some semblance of equality when it comes to sharing our limited resources for TV and laptop.
- Minimize TV/computer for older kids by creating a set time and alternatives (make a board game, music, read, draw, etc.). Although for most that is near impossible, you’ll be surprised what you can do when you suggest a board game to play and then follow it up with having you kids making their board game. This is the time when someone else can access the TV/Computer.
- Parents, and I hate to say this, can only have that privilege at night when the kids are sleeping or close to it. One hour to 3o min before sleep no kid should be using electronics.
- Change between TV and other electronic devices. I know it sounds weird but a variety of electronic devices helps split up the 4-5 hour game binging or binge watching even though you are still using an electronic device.
- When kids, especially toddlers take a minute and play with something while the TV is on, turn it off or turn it to adult content. That way they can focus on the activity rather than blindly watching TV.
- Set time for free computer play for older kids, and make sure they know your timings, especially if you have work meetings or other tasks such as online banking and checking emails. Don’t wait for them to be done – stick to the time. Even if that you tube video they are watching had 4 minutes left.
- If there are things they have to watch (TV or computer) you can switch a time with them. You can also make a deal to exchange it for less time in another day (i.e. 30 min extra watching a gaming video today means 1 hour less watching time tomorrow).
These rules go out the window during home breaks or if people are over. But for day to day they will get used to these rules and you’ll find that sharing devices isn’t as horrible as it can be. Different family members, particularly kids will try to manipulate and ask for flexibility but you’ll have to be adamant at least for the first two weeks to set the base. Siblings will still fight, but at least it’ll be over other things than electronic devices. Every little win counts!