Screen Time

Ah, Screen Time. That is a Thing where I live, and probably where most of you live, too, although it wasn’t when I was a kid. I remember, as a child, hearing somewhere that in Japan, people watched TV for an average of 8 hours a day, and thought to myself, “Is that all?”

Every day's great at your Junes~

All of our childhoods

There was important stuff to watch at all hours of the day, and when there wasn’t, there were video games to play. My mom would occasionally kick my outside to play with some rocks by myself or something, but overall, she wasn’t terribly concerned that I was melding with the couch. Well, she didn’t like me playing “that damn Nintendo”, but mindless TV was generally OK. I know that Husbachu’s parents actively encouraged their son to be absorbed into the Midnight Channel, because it kept him quiet, and they’d gladly do the same to my kids, but they know I feel Screen Time is a Thing, and I make a Fuss about, and they also live in Fear of me. Maybe.

Is it weird that I limit something that I enjoyed endlessly in my own youth? It does feel fairly hypocritical. Becoming a parent changes you. The same person that reminisces about playing Skies of Arcadia for 13 hours straight back in the day is the person who now reads articles like this and decides that her own kids need to be raised without these binges. “But it was fun!” “But it isn’t healthy!” And that’s really it. I look at myself, and, while I’m happy with whom I have become, I could certainly be healthier, physically and socially, and too much Screen Time, I feel, are at least a part of why I am the way I am today.

Anyways, I was just thinking about this because yesterday, I bent the rules and let Charmander play Kirby about an hour longer than I normally would let him do his thing, and at an earlier part of the day, because we were all having a day off, and he was super excited that our friend was lending him the game. (Yup, he’s playing Kirby Triple Deluxe like he wanted to). He had soccer in the morning, and a party at the park later in the afternoon, so I figured he was having plenty of physical activity and socialization that day, and it wouldn’t be a big deal. Wrooooooooooooooooooooooooongo! He went crazy with frustration at a level eventually, and began crying and raving and carrying on like some teenage CoD player or something. It was pretty awful, and it lasted for a while after he stopped playing. In comparison, today he died 5 times against a boss, but kept his cool, persevered, and beat it. The difference? He was having his normal block of Screen Time for his usual amount of time.

What is he used to? Well, we normally operate with bout 45 minutes after lunch, and then another half an hour to an hour before bedtime. That’s for the 5 year old; the 3 year old usually ends up not getting that second block (and honestly, he usually doesn’t care). Back when I first started trying to enforce Screen Time rules, there was a LOT of resistance, and a lot of grief when the time was over, similar to the break down we just had. However, having the screen time at set times of day REALLY HELPED. It became scheduled, so my kids stopped trying to sneak it in because they knew they would get it. The afternoon time slot is pretty much guaranteed (unless they try to sneak in earlier Screen Time, although going to preschool usually helps avoid this), otherwise Mommy would never get a break and would possibly start breaking things instead. I said earlier that the time slot lasted for “about” 45 minutes. This is how it works if they play a video game, since I have them stop after completing x amount of stages, seeing how it’s just rude and frustrating to make someone stop playing when they’re in the middle of trying to accomplish something. It used to be they’d watch Caillou at this point, so that was more of a set time, but whatevs. Sometimes Squirtle will still watch that, or maybe like, Daniel Tiger (who he once told me he loves more than his brother), because he doesn’t really play much in the way of video games yet. The evening time slot is earned by the following:

  • Stopping Screen Time promptly in the afternoon
  • Cleaning up all the toys that cut holes into my feet at least by the 5th time I’ve demanded it
  • Attempting to eat dinner
  • Not being a horrible person in general
  • Accomplishing all this before 8 o’clock

Squirtle goes to bed at 7:30, hence one of the reasons he usually doesn’t get the second block of Screen Time. Also, he never cleans up the toys, so there’s that, too. Getting that extra Screen Time is an amazing motivator for Charmander, though. In some ways, it probably helps him behave better, provided I keep it under control, unlike yesterday where it went unchecked too long and he tried to destroy the world with his screams. But yeah. In all things, moderation.

Are you an avid gamer that enforces Screen Time on your kids, or possibly doesn’t? Or a non-gamer parent with thoughts on this? Or a kid with parents that enforce this stuff? Sound off in the comments below; we should share!


Saying “Hi!” to Kirby

This weekend, Charmander expanded his video game horizons. Well, it really began on Friday. I had stuff to do and I wanted the kids out of the way, so I granted them a bonus afternoon screen time session of watching some brain-rotting YouTube videos. Looking back, I don’t know why I didn’t just put on some normal, wholesome, brain-rotting TV. Probably it was because that’s what the kids asked for. Specifically, they enjoy watching the videos of Zack Scott. I swear, I will go into detail some day about how and why, but the point is, this is whom they enjoy watching. (I was very relieved when, upon checking his Facebook page one day, that OTHER people also let their preschoolers watch him; he’s very popular with the 5 year old crowd. Just note that he keeps his videos’ ratings in line with the actual games’ ratings, so if he’s playing a “T” or “M” rated game or the like, the language will match. Always screen your “Let’s play” videos before letting your kids watch them). Anyways, I let them pull up the channel via our PS3 (because Charmander CAN do this himself), but with the caveat that they couldn’t watch a video of Plants Vs Zombies: Garden Warfare. Because I said so, that’s why. Squirtle noticed that there was a video with Kirby, and I OK’d watching that.

Well, Charmander was able to put some pieces together in his mind upon watching this playthrough of Kirby Triple Deluxe:

  1. This is a game for a system we own
  2. Mommy and Daddy are capable of buying games
  3. This game looks fun
  4. Mommy and Daddy should buy this game

At least, I figure that’s what went through his mind, because he asked. He hasn’t really asked for games to be bought before. Ok, well, that’s not entirely true. We’ve been in stores, and he’s asked for Wii U games, but we don’t have that system, and he’s asked for PvZ: Garden Warfare, but that requires an XBOX Live Gold account and always being online, which is not happening. But this is a game that he asked for without seeing the box. I said we’d talk to Daddy about it, which is a fancy way of saying “No, and I don’t want to talk about it right now”. I put him to bed later on, before Husbachu got home, and thought nothing else about it.

The next morning, I find Charmander sitting with a Wiimote in his hands playing the NES Kirby’s Adventure. Oh, good; we purchased that a long time ago on the Virtual Console, so it’s like it’s free at this point, which was why Husbachu fired it up for him.

If you can't beat 'em, eat 'em.  Best slogan ever.

You eat that box art, Kirby. That’ll teach ’em.

He claims that if Charmander can beat the game, maybe in the distant future we can buy him Triple Deluxe. Maybe. Maybe he’ll have forgotten by then! We just don’t want to spend money on games for a child who will likely not be able to play through the game himself. It requires more manual dexterity than a tower defense game does. Case in point: he was too stressed to beat the bosses on his own. Husbachu did the classic battle against the tree for him, and I took care of the first onslaught of Meta Knight. He did play through the rest of the stages up through most of the second world, so that was pretty good, at least. Now I’m wondering if mine and Husbachu’s backseat gaming is causing Charmander to rely on us too much. Maybe he wouldn’t ask us to do it if we weren’t sitting there next to him looking so capable. Anyways, after I did the Meta Knight fight for him, he seemed to be getting whiny, and then I discovered he’d been playing video games for an hour without having breakfast or anything like that, so we had to stop and act like humans for a bit. Later that night, though… he wanted to watch game play videos of Triple Deluxe again.

What's pink and sucks?

Eat that… stuff in front of you… Kirby. Is it us? Are you eating us?

And then he wanted to watch it again the next night, and this night as well. Two weeks ago, for show and tell at his preschool, he brought along some Plants Vs Zombies K’Nex. The week before that? A plush PvZ Zombie. And some random time before that, he brought along those cut outs I mentioned making for him before. But this week, he brought along a big Kirby plush we’ve had sitting around for ages.

Is a new era dawning? Is our home life about to become entirely about a pink ball with feet that devours all that crosses his path and absorbs his foes’ powers? I don’t know for certain. He is still playing PvZ daily, probably because this month there’s a special “party” every day in PvZ2 that awards special prizes. It is kind of refreshing to see some real enthusiasm for SOMETHING THAT’S NOT PLANTS VS ZOMBIES. Not that he hasn’t had other interests this entire time. But this is a nice change of pace. And always remember: If you can’t beat ’em, eat ’em. Thank you, Kirby.