My boys are currently 10 and 8 and they LOVE screen time–any kind of screen time. It can be a computer, an iPad, an iPhone, a video game, a stupid television commercial, really anything that moves on a screen is fair game. They are total screen time addicts–and like most kids their age–they would be in front of a screen all the live-long day if we did not set limits for them. As parents, we all know that limiting our children’s amount of screen time per day is healthy for our kids. But as parents, we also know that limiting screen time (especially during the summer months) can lead to a battle of the wills.
My background is in counseling, and I worked for 8 years as an elementary school counselor back in the day. One thing I used to teach parents is that if the same problem keeps happening over and over again, it is a sign that you need to come up with a creative problem solving solution. Uh…yeah. Thanks for that great advice Beth. No duh! Stick with me here because I’ve found a creative solution to this recurring screen time problem that has worked BRILLIANTLY for us! This system teaches kids important life-lessons such as how to count money, how to budget, how to work towards a goal, how to be responsible, and how to be grateful. AND it does all of this with little parental monitoring and little to no fuss!
Easy No-fuss Screen Time Reward System
This system probably works best with elementary-aged children 7 and up but can be adapted for younger and older kids. You could use this with younger kids if an older sibling or parent is willing to help with the money counting.
How it works:
1. One cent buys one minute of screen time. My boys are allowed one hour of screen time each, per day which totals $.60 each per hour. You can decide whatever amount of time works best for your kids.
2. My boys are each paid $4.20 in pretend money at the beginning of each week. This is their weekly “salary”. They receive this salary for doing their chores, doing their exercises (my husband has them on a little exercise program), and reading for at least an hour. During the school year, this will include finishing all of their homework.
3. They can use their screen time money however they wish as long as they have met their expectations for the day. If they go ahead with their screen time without doing what is expected, then we dock their pay. Explain to the kids that if they decided not to show up to work, or complete a work assignment, they would receive loss of income. If they decide not to do their chores, or homework, then they will lose that day’s pay.
4. They can choose to use all seven hours of screen time in one day if they wish, but then of course they will have to suffer the consequences of being out of cash! This has proved soooo valuable in teaching budgeting and the value of delayed gratification.
5. As long as eyes are on a screen, each boy has to pay into the jar. If one of my kids is “just watching” the other play a video game, this still counts towards screen time and they have to pay up!
6. If the kids are going to be at a friend’s house, I talk it over with the parents beforehand and let my boys know that screen time at a friend’s house still counts. There might be some exceptions or “bonuses” granted, but when you first implement this system I’d advise that you stick to the allotted weekly time—otherwise you will render the system meaningless and your kids won’t respect it.
7. If we have a family movie night, or go out to the movies together as a family, we may or may not choose to allow this screen time as an additional “bonus”. This has worked really well to foster appreciation and cuts down on entitlement.
Materials Needed to Create Screen Time Jar:
- Mason jar
- Puffy stickers
- Spray paint or latex paint
- Wallet, coin purse, or some other container to be used as the “bank”
- Craft knife to cut hole in top of mason jar lid
- Play money coins (I bought mine on Amazon. This is an affiliate link.)
- Timer (Find one with a magnet on the back if you can.)
- Super glue
Step 1: Place puff stickers on your jar and secure loose edges with superglue.
Step 2: Paint your jar with latex paint or spray paint. I chose to paint my jar with latex and coat it with clear spray paint to seal the paint.
Step 3: Trace your lid onto thin cardboard and cut out a slit for the coin slot. I used a cereal box and covered it with some vinyl I had on hand. You can also cut through the metal lid with a dremel.
Step 4: Super glue a magnet onto the back of your jar for your timer.
Congrats! You are now ready to implement your no-fuss screen time reward system! When your kids have finished their chores, they can pay into the jar and set the timer for the amount of minutes paid. This system has transformed our daily lives and cut down on all screen time battles!
You can obviously implement this system without making a cute jar and bank, but I guarantee you’ll have more initial buy-in if you take the time to make something that looks cute! Let me know how it works for you if you try it!