ONE mum has come up with a novel way of limiting her kids’ screen time: by giving them unlimited access.
There’s one caveat though — her kids can’t reach for their phone, iPad or TV remote until they’ve worked through a list of tasks for the day.
Ann Kirby-Payne from Rockaway Beach in New York says she implemented the plan when she realised that her kids were like her; most productive in the morning. If they started off their day lazily, it was likely they wouldn’t achieve much all day.
So she created a must-do list before any screen time is allowed (she notes “they’re rules, not guidelines”). The list includes:
• You have read real text (not comics) for at least 25 minutes
• All your homework is done (one item may wait until morning with approval from Mum/Dad)
• You have marked the calendar with any upcoming tests or deadlines, and made an appointment to study with Mum/Dad
• You have done something creative, active, or productive for at least 45 minutes
• Your bed is made and your room is tidy
• You have done at least one chore
Her list of ‘acceptable’ chores includes cleaning the bathroom, loading the dishwasher, or purging unwanted old items.
She’s promised “No compromises. No complaints. No Negotiation. Just do these things. And once those things were done, they could HAVE AS MUCH SCREEN TIME AS THEY WANT.”
So after a year of living with the new model, has it worked?
Apparently, yes. Ms Kirby-Payne’s children are now 15 and nearly 12, and the structure of the system has meant they are now much more likely to get their homework done or tidy their room than spend all day playing games.
She told news.com.au that her kids “didn’t have a problem” with the ground rules.
“It was less daunting than me limiting or banning computer time for them.”
While overall the system has been a positive move for the family, Ms Kirby-Payne admits there are challenges.
“Consistency on my part (is a problem). I get busy with work and it all falls apart. We’re in a terrible slump now, where neither my husband nor I are really monitoring them, and they are once again spending too much time on the computer. But that’s happened before and I do find the list helpful for getting back on track.”
She says the structure of the list works best on school days when her kids are already in a routine.
“I’m absolutely flexible. We try to stick to it on school days, but weekends, if it’s raining, if there are no kids around, etc (I will allow screen time early in the day). So on weekends (if they) get it done early, I’ll kick them off later.”
While the system was developed to help her children complete their homework and spend more time being creative and active, she has found it has improved the way she works too.
“I’m a freelance textbook editor and I guess that has influenced the way I approached this — I have to track my time rather carefully.
“As my kids get older, I’ve been trying to apply some of these aspects of my jobs to my kids’ experience, because being a student is a lot like working from home — there’s no boss breathing down your neck to keep you on task, and there are lots of distractions competing for your time and attention.
And it’s not only Ms Kirby-Payne’s family who have found the method useful. After posting her list of rules online, thousands of people read it and say it has worked for them.
I started this last week with my 9- and 5-year-olds. I am SO HAPPY with how it’s working out. My 9-year-old runs inside after school each day to check off everything on the list. Within 10 minutes of being home today, he had emptied his backpack, emptied the dishwasher, and started his homework WITHOUT BEING ASKED!!!
He hasn’t realised yet that the items on this list take him 90% of his night and his laptop time has been at MOST 20 minutes (vs. 2 to 3 hours) …
I love this idea, thank you SO MUCH for posting it.
So far, this has helped make our summer really pleasant! I am always scrambling my brains to come up with a best solution, but everything is always too labour intensive, or complicated and we don’t follow through for more than a day. This has SOLVED that problem. And while my kids complained at first that I was going to ruin their summer, they already actually LIKE this system! My 12-year-old daughter says it gets her out of bed in the morning. Her friend texted her at 11am and said she just got up. My daughter had eaten breakfast, walked the dog, completed a painting on canvas, watered the garden, cleaned her room and bathroom, and took a bike ride by that time! So pumped. And like you said, they don’t even spend that much of their time with screens because the creative active juices are flowing!!
Ms Kirby-Payne admits she is a little “uncomfortable” giving parenting advice to others but is happy it is working for other families.
“I am not a parenting expert and by no means am I the picture of productivity or efficiency in my home. But people seem to like it, judging from the reactions. However, I’m sort of uncomfortable with people who ask me for advice; this is just what I did and it kind of worked.”