When I think of my childhood, most of my memories take place outside. I rode my bike, ran around the park, and made up games to play with my friends and the neighbourhood kids.
The only screen time I got was Saturday morning cartoons. Although I'd love for my children to have that same technology-free lifestyle, they're growing up in a world that's obsessed with every kind of device imaginable.
It also doesn't help that we live in Silicon Valley, where it's pretty much unavoidable to see a kid with a smartphone or tablet everywhere we go. Instead of building a castle in the sandbox, my 8-year-old would rather build a Minecraft house on the iPad.
Don't get me wrong — I think the new technology our children are growing up with today is fantastic and exciting. I never wanted to ban screen time from our home completely, but I definitely wanted to limit it in a smart and practical way.
That's why I came up with a system that's proven to be very successful with my two kids, ages 6 and 8. Instead of blindly handing over the iPad whenever they ask for it, I make them earn their screen time by completing chores.
Since screen time means more to my young children than actual money right now, I'm using it to my advantage and forgoing the traditional route of paying them for chores and am instead having them earn toy coins that have a 15-minute screen time value. They pay me, and they get the device.
Each child is given a list of age-appropriate chores that are divided into three categories: chores worth one coin (15 minutes), chores worth two coins (30 minutes), and chores worth three coins (45 minutes).
An example of each chore that would earn my child one, two, and three coins, respectively, would be giving our dog food and water, helping prepare dinner, and doing their laundry. As long as their homework and main responsibilities are complete, they're free to redeem their coins for screen time, whether it's 15 minutes or 90 minutes.
At first, my kids were not thrilled with having to pay for screen time, but they quickly learned that if they really wanted something, they were going to have to work for it. This applies to all aspects of life, and I'm glad they're learning this important lesson at a young age.
Having this coin system in place has taught them responsibility, accountability, and time management skills. It's also had other surprising benefits as well, like boosting their self-confidence and self-esteem.
Our children are growing up in a fast-paced, technology-hungry world. I believe it's important for them to be enriched by the technology, because there are so many great benefits, but not consumed by it.
I would never want my children to feel entitled to screen time. I want them to know it's a privilege and reward for them putting their family and responsibilities first. And as far as I know, there's no app for that.