Friday, July 13, 2012

Screen Time

Was this even a concept when I was growing up? Probably not because my childhood landscape wasn't littered with handheld gaming devices, XBoxs, Wiis, iPads, PC's, YouTube, Netflix with streaming capability, DVDs, DVR and plain old television.

That list makes for a lot of ways to sit in front of a screen. Every summer I dread the inevitible demands and every summer, at some point during the late afternoon heat, I cave. Once I cave the ensuing peace and amount of work I accomplish allows hours to slip by undetected.

The need for change to the current system presented itself this spring when Child #2 announced his life ambition. "When I grow up I'm going to," he said at dinner and paused.

"Yes!" my husband and I said, eager to hear the incredible future Child #2 envisioned for himself.
"Work at the Plaid Pantry. And when I'm not working I'm going to come home and play video games in the basement." Without waiting for us to reply he added, "I might even live down there. That way I could still eat all my meals with you."

Nothing spells out intervention like an announcement that your son's life goal is to work at a convenience store and play video games in the basement. Not long after that I hatched the Poker Chip plan.

The Poker Chip plan is my attempt to achieve some kind of happy medium in our screen crazy world.

On Sunday night each kid gets seven poker chips. Each poker chip is worth one hour of screen time. How and when they spend their poker chips is up to them.

They can go big, like Child #2 did the first week, and indulge in five solid hours of screen time. They can save them up for a movie or they can cash in one a day for a little five o'clock down time. The only catch is the poker chips are use or lose, a necessity given Child #1's hoarding tendencies (but that's another blog post).

During the first week of the poker chip plan my husband was worried. "Child #2 is going to drive you crazy," he said after the five hour technology orgy. But he didn't. Even though his splurge meant he had to go four whole days *the horror* without staring at any kind of screen he accepted his fate as part of the deal.

The Poker Chip plan has also proved to be an excellent outlet for Child #1's junior lawyer skills.

She views the "use it or lose it" aspect as taxation without representation and has submitted numerous oral arguments in support of her position.

There's only one person who sits on the bench of the Garth Family Supreme Court and, unluckily for Child #1, that person also wrote the legislation. Her motions and appeals have been dismissed and denied. If you happen to know her, do me a solid and keep her in the dark about conflict of interest provisions.

As for the overall success of the plan, so far this summer has seen a higher hit rate of lounging around reading books and playing outside. Technically, poker chips are for gambling but I'm pretty sure this jack pot of an idea is better than anything I would have won at a casino.


Unknown said...

What a great idea :-) As both a parent and a teacher, I am pretty appalled at the amount of "screen time" (to use your brilliant terminology) kids today are exposed to.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Brilliant plan!

Beylit said...

Great idea. Glad it is working out for you.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

I like this concept too -- but what about Daughter #1, whose screen time includes the hours she spends working on her epic fantasy novel -- and Daughter #2, who devours books on her Kindle?

Yes, they both need to get away from the screen, get outside for fresh air and exercise, but their screen time is not just TV and video games.

For my house, maybe I need poker chips that MUST be used for outdoor activities. Mandatory chips. That way, I'll know they are getting the exercise they need, while still indulging their creativity and hunger for reading.

Ella said...

This dazzles! I love it and I agree it is brilliant~ :D

Fortunately we lived near by the shore at that age. There was gaming on rainy days, but for the most part lots of walking to and from.

It is a dance, a long marathon...
I always swelled with pride, when told my child was the most polite and respectable.
I am in the swimming years, now. One has almost finished college and the other one has two more years of high school. I hope they keep swimming n' don't sink. One trying to figure out what college, what path, in these times is a gamble. I'm hoping for two gold medals :D

Carol Kilgore said...

Excellent idea!

I wonder if my dogs would follow the plan for how many times they can bark in a day?

I doubt it.

Happy Weekend :)

Joanne Noragon said...

A great idea. At my daughter's house the kids say "in a minute" and never put down the device or turn it off. It's still the parenting behind the concept.

Johanna Garth said...

Klo, thanks. I wish I could take credit for the term but I can't.

Thanks Alex!

Beylit, so far, so good.

Dianne, I think you've described the perfect way to motivate them to do outdoorsy stuff too.

Ella, I love the phrase the swimming years :)

Carol, now THAT would be an interesting blog post!

Joanne, it's so hard to enforce those "in a minutes". The poker chips keep me in line too.

Liza said...

This is an amazing and creative idea! You are a thoughtful Mom. Well done!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

What a smart idea. One hour a day. As a kid, I would've died. Yes, I watched too much TV and played too much Atari.

Hart Johnson said...

Oh, your kids crack me up. Your son... yeah... INTERVENTION! I think your poker chip plan is BRILLIANT. Sounds like it's working, too.

Morgan said...

"Nothing spells out an intervention" <----LOL!

I love it. :D

Anonymous said...

See, I'd only work in a convenient store if it was from a Kevin Smith film.

dolorah said...

One day my youngest son said he was going to live with me forever, and I nearly cried. It has to end some day . .

I like your innovation here. That child #1 sounds challenging :) She'll go far in life with that attitude.


Rachna Chhabria said...

Hi Johanna, nice to meet you. Your poker chip plan not only sounds wonderful, but it also seems to be working well.

I am sure Child #2 will change his career plans. He will grow out of it :)

laura thomas said...

Excellent idea, and it works! I can't wait to see what you do when one of them tries to raise the ante:) Have a great weekend Johanna.

ali cross said...

Oh my gosh this is the best written post on this subject EVER. I love it! And you're brilliant! We've been using a similar method for ages now and it totally works. Good for you and I hope you continue to have wonderful success!

Shell Flower said...

This is a great post. Your son cracks me up with his dreams of Plaid Pantry and I love that child #1 is a hoarder. The poker chips are a great idea in so many ways. Teaching spending habits early is always good.

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