The kids returned to school this week and so it's back to our normal term-time routine. While we’re pretty relaxed during the holidays to let the kids vege out. During term-time, one of the struggles we have is how to reduce (or at least monitor) our kids screen time with TV, Netflix, iPad games etc.
They are turning to digital devices more and more, rather than other activities that we would prefer they spent their free time doing, like getting outside, riding their bikes, reading a book, board games or simply playing make believe together.
Screen Time Tickets
One system we implemented a while ago was a ticket system to incentivise them to make smarter choices. This is how it works for us:
Screen Time Tickets, on each we have printed:
“This can be redeemed for 30 minutes of screen time or 50 cents”
“Earn one by reading, outside activity or maths games for 30 minutes”
The idea is that you (the parent) allocate how much time you want each child to be able to use digital devices in the week.
We allocate 5 tickets per child a week. This gives them an average of 30 minutes chill-out screen time after school each day, once they have completed their afternoon chores. If they choose to redeem for a movie, a 90-minute movie is worth 3 tickets. We only use our tickets during the weekdays, not on weekends, as this suits us best.
Here’s where the fun comes in.
It is up to the child whether or not they redeem their tickets. They can spread them out over the week, use them all up at once, or not use them at all. It’s entirely up to them.
If they run out, they will have to earn another one before they can go back on a device. Or if they’re savvy savers, they might do without screen time all week and redeem for cash at the end of the week. A nice little bonus to their allowance.
We have had some interesting choices, my daughter has been quite happy to save her tickets up when she’s reading a good book and earn some extra pocket money. My son, who at 6 years old hasn’t quite learned to delay rewards, sometimes runs out early in the week and has to earn extras or do without. Or they have been known to blitz through them by Wednesday and simply do other things the rest of the week.
Setting the timer
If only one child is redeeming their ticket at a time, I simply set the oven timer for 30 minutes to remind me when time is up. If both of my kids redeem their tickets at different times (eg: 15 minutes apart) I use an app on my iPhone called MultiTimer. This allows you to have a saved set of 30 minute timers for each child.
Choosing ways to “earn” a ticket
Select activities you’d like to see your kids do more off (riding their bike or scooter, playing outside, maths games, writing, reading, creative play etc). On our tickets outdoor activities covers pretty much anything outside (riding their bike or scooter, running, trampolining etc), while you may wish to be more specific. Maths games or worksheets were not considered fun by my kids, so it was something they avoided. By adding them as a choice, they often chose to do them by themselves.
For us, this Screen Time system is intentionally not related to household chores as the kids help out as a member of the family. Our chores aren’t tied to any rewards, which may give them the option not to do them if they chose. Set up what works best for your family. Others have chosen to use them more as a reward system.
"These tickets are amazing! We started using the Screen Time tickets once I realised the kids were having a bit too much screen time and not enough jobs were getting done. They get a ticket when they complete a job or if they have done an extra special thing that day. It works a treat, love them!
Want to try this with your kids?
Get a set of the Printable Screen Time Tickets so you can easily implement this system in your home. This printable is editable (yay!) so you can quickly type in the details to suit your family or each child. Screen Time tickets are available in my online store now. They come in yellow, blue, pink or a mixed set of all colours.
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