Six words. Can… I… go… on… my… iPad?
No other question from my child causes me more stress. I am convinced it is today’s version of “I’m bored” which caused my mom almost as much stress back in the day.
Although there is a difference. “I’m bored” is about a lack of effort and creativity. It is a need for an external force to provide structure through an assigned activity. It was a choice between ‘do nothing and be bored’ or go do whatever was offered up (“go outside”, “go play in your room”, “go find a friend”).
“Can I go on my iPad” is a craving for stimulation. Okay, you could argue that it is the same as “Can I watch TV?” but before Netflix, Teletoon and PVR’s, what we watched as kids was dependent on what was on at the time and thankfully for my development, kids shows didn’t run 24-7 so our window was small.
Even though my kids know that there are no devices during the day for the summer (okay, mostly), it doesn’t seem to stop them asking. So, when I get “Can I go on my iPad”, my choices to answer as a parent seem to pretty dismal:
NO. Cue whining, crying, arguments of “not fair” and “I haven’t been on it all day”, etc.
NO, YOU HAVEN’T DONE X. See above or on a good day, X done as quickly and shoddily as possible.
NOT NOW. See above 1. but followed by “when?”
YES, LATER. Ditto.
YES, AFTER YOU HAVE DONE X. See 2.
No win. At best, you have delayed the repeat of the dreaded question for what, maybe 10 minutes? The draw of devices varies from child to child and some parents may be more fortunate than I am (or probably have better parenting skills) but if you ARE like me, it is constant.
Out of my three kids, it is my youngest that is truly addicted. Maybe it is because she was exposed so much earlier than my other two. Maybe it is something about how her brain works. Whatever the reason, my battle begins from the moment she wakes up.
My husband and I have tried many techniques running the full gamut from iron cast rulings to empowerment of choice and it seems like the best results are somewhere in between.
We have found the following formula has worked best in our family. “Can I go on my iPad?”
YES. “Yes, you can go on your iPad.” By saying yes, it affirms that they will get what they are asking for. It is more positive and sets them thinking about when not how.
WHEN. “You can go on your iPad after completing X or at Y time.” By setting up goal or a time, you are helping them learn delayed gratification.
FOR HOW LONG (and on what). By setting expectations before they earn their time and getting them to agree, there is less arguing about when they need to get off.
Here’s are a couple of common examples in our house:
“Yes, you can go on your iPad for 15 minutes if you play Dreambox (math) or Raz Kids (reading) after you go and play downstairs for 30 minutes.” Once downstairs, I often don’t see them back up for hours… and then when they ask if it is time, they will set a timer for their iPad play!
“Yes, you can go on your iPad for 30 minutes after dinner. Then you can go an play a game or read a book before bed.” This is their brain candy time and usually falls into playing Roblox or streaming YouTube slime videos.
So far, it has been the most productive way to manage time in our house and I hope there are some useful strategies here. More importantly, we would love to hear more about how you manage devices and screen time in your house!