Our children are facing the same struggles of breaking from screen inundation as we are, so it’s important that we work together with them to develop a family culture that defines the uses and limits of screens in our lives. In setting the mindset for devices, we should be clear that screen time is something we earn. Screen time is not a right.
Practicing the value of earning screen time is rooted in the mindset that there are great rewards available to those who work hard. Like other things we earn such as TV time and playtime, there are many ways to productively garner time for digital entertainment such as doing homework, household chores, volunteering, reading, or babysitting.
Many parents have long given their children a cash allowance in exchange for good grades or chores. To more and more children though, spending time on their devices is more valuable to them than money. A study published in 2017 found that young men exhibited a larger than normal decline in work hours attributed to a preference of digital gaming and recreational computer use. (https://www.nber.org/papers/w23552) We are quite familiar with the mesmerizing qualities digital entertainment has; therefore, it should come as no surprise that the urge to consume instead of produce is a such a powerful one.
In order to maintain healthy limits on screen allotment, parents can contract a list of rewards for accomplishing learning goals and household tasks. By making educational activities a real-time source of earning screen time, learning is no longer limited to class and homework time so often set to disappear in the summer – it is now a year-round daily practice. The benefits to consistent educational opportunities like these include better retention, recall, and critical thinking skills.