On Facebook, Karen asks for your input on tools for controlling screen time:
Would like to know of TV/video timers folks use to let siblings know their turn is over, or to limit screen time.
Having never used one, I did a little digging at Amazon and came up two promising options:
- PlayLimit TV and Video Game Timer, $39.99 (pictured here because I dig the 60's vault-like style)
- Time Machine TV Video Game Management Timer, $18.97
(The highly-regarded BOB Screen Time Manager is hard to find — perhaps it's no longer in production?)
Both add a token-operated timer to the TV and video game systems, doing the double job of controlling time limits and giving kids a concrete way to earn screen time. Both get decent reviews, but neither is perfect.
Another option is to simply add a key lock such as the VoltBolt to the power cord.
My initial reactions are both pro and con:
Why did we never use a TV/video game timer?
Video game time has been the biggest source of arguments in our household. We've relied on the kitchen timer with spotty results, and I'm wondering if a more specialized solution would have helped.
I'm glad we never used a TV/video game timer.
In some ways, a video game timer might have prevented a valuable and ongoing time management conversation we've had with my son (the major source of video game friction). Points we've hit over the years:
- Priorities: What it means when overplaying video games causes you to run out of time for homework — and your grade suffers as a result (he cares a lot about his grades).
- Balance: Choices one can make to balance fun, work, social time, veg-out time, and active time.
- Investment: Using time to invest in one's health, friendships, grades and family versus frittering it away and then having nothing to show for it.
- Differences: (On the flip side) Recognizing that different people have different priorities. I may think video games are a waste of time, but he has pretty sophisticated reasons to disagree; communicating about our differences brings us closer.
As trade-offs go, the value of this conversation was/is well-worth the screen time frustration. What's more, handing over the responsibility of time management has taught him how to handle it better.
Would love to hear your experiences, thoughts, reviews of TV and video game timers. Please share!
More: Screen time hacks