From one techno parent to another – How to manage kids screen time and survive

The system

Your kids earn marbles by doing chores, making good choices, or whatever you feel in your household warrants a marble.

In my home my kids are 2 and 5 – so this is mostly directed at my eldest daughter.  Marbles are earned for individualised things like my being a good big sister and helping Charlotte (the 2 year old) reach for a favourite toy or her staying in her bed all night or doing her morning toiletries by herself without being prompted. There are also one-off opportunities like washing the table after dinner. It comes down to what works best for you (and how old your kids are) to determine what deems a marble earned. Then deposit the marble into the jar.

Next, determine how much screen time each marble is worth.

In my house, each chore generally earns one marble which is worth 15 minutes of screen time. On the flip side – I do set limits. The kids can use a maximum of four marbles every day. When the kids want screen time, they know to check their jar and pay me the right amount of marbles. Then I set the timer and let them know when time’s up. 

The exception rules come into effect if one of the kids is down and out with the flu. I might even let it go over the limit if they’ve been playing outside for most of the day, especially in the summer. There are also family movie nights, or I just need them to watch a show for a bit so I can finish up with dinner so I allow a few freebies. Let’s not be too crazy on these rules. 

Don’t abuse your power

The system works best when it’s not a reward/punishment system. My goal was to make this a positive experience to earn screen time and not expect it as their given right. I would suggest not to take marbles away for bad behaviour or to threaten that they can’t ‘cash’ in any marbles for the day. 

One mom suggested that you (or any parent, babysitter) can have the children pay you in marbles for certain choices that they get to make.

Her example is this: “If my kids are whining about cleaning up a mess they made in the living room, I tell them that they can either do it themselves for free, they can pay me three marbles for me to help, or they can pay me ten marbles and I will do it for them.”

I’m going to be introducing this technique this weekend now that a few marbles are stacked up.

Why I love it

I like this system compared to other token methods because there aren’t any checklists or separate values that I need to add up. It’s a great visual system that is great for my 5 year old, who loves to count and can grow with my kids as they get older. There is also a direct correlation between earnings, savings, payment and limits. Budgeting is a skill that everyone needs – let’s get that mind set started now. 

But most of all, while they’re definitely not in front of a computer or TV screen day and all night, they still get some time to enjoy their electronics. It might even make them appreciate that time more.