Screen Time Testing 1

Mom Brandy says her boys "aren't motivated to do anything" and getting them outside to play or do some yard work is "like pulling teeth."

The test - The Melnechenkos tested Screen Time app, which allows parents to limit time spent on Apple devices. The app was not available for the Android tablet used by their oldest Kaden. They set the following rules for the test period:

  • 1 hour a day on the iPod for Ethan
  • 2 hours a day for Karson and Kaden (not including school work or reading)

The boys could bank their hours and use them on other days. They could also earn extra points for physical activity or an exceptional job on a chore or school assignment. Mom and dad also worked hard to keep the boys off the xBox as much as possible during the test. "We want real life to matter more to our children than video games. We have had it but can't figure out how to balance today's society with family life”

How it went - "Our youngest and middle sons thought it was cool that we were chosen to test the app. Our oldest, who is almost 13, thought we were crazy, like this would never apply to him," says Brandy. "The excited attitude lasted for exactly two days." The Melnechenkos replaced screen time with card and board games, some of which Brandy purchased specifically for the test. She says they did play the games a lot "which was great - and they were even getting along some of that time." A family workout in their home gym was one of the most successful things they tried.

The biggest challenge came when the boys were home alone on a school holiday while mom and dad worked. "I know they played games all day, even though I gave them lots to do like chores, shovelling, new (video) games, etc," says Brandy. Brandy doesn't feel the app made it easier for her to limit screen time. The app was easy enough to install, but Brandy felt 7-year old Ethan was too young, forgetting to turn the app on or off. Karson wouldn't turn on the app unless mom or dad was in the room. She was also disappointed that the app didn't lock up or shut down the device once the boys reached their time limit.

Lessons learned – "I've learned that it is just the way they are. They like video games and unfortunately our society today promotes it in every way. I can do all I can to encourage them to do something else and hope they will make the right choice in the end," says Brandy. "As long as their school work, home life and attitude are not suffering, things should be OK."

Her advice to other parents? Keep encouraging your kids to do something else and get involved since "kids are more likely to do other things if you do it with them”.

The Melnechenkos likely won't continue to use the Screen Time app, but Brandy does plan to continue giving the boys points for doing something other than playing video games. She also thinks they'll use the re:activity Idea Jar more as the weather warms up.