Are my Skylanders making me grumpy? Screen time limits for children.

By The Bug

I have a problem with my mother. She accuses me of being grumpy, hankers after this boy I apparently used to be – always up for any suggestion, cheerful, happy, ‘sunny’ whatever that means. Now she calls me Victor Meldrew and tells me off for the look on my face.

The problem is, I’m not grumpy at all, and once I get to the park/supermarket/bike trail/book shop, I’m full-on into it, asking questions, enjoying the sights, laughing at a game. It’s just that I like to put on a teenager face whenever I’m asked to leave the house. Especially if I’ve been playing the Wii.

For Christmas I asked for Skylanders Swap Force characters. And I got them. My uncle gave me Grilla Driller, my Granny gave me Roller Brawl, and Santa sent a very nice note of apology for not managing to get Countdown (apparently he’s not been released yet – I thought Santa had magic powers??), instead gifting me Fire Kraken.

Here is me, showing you how to create a multitude of extra characters, just by swapping half of Fire Kraken for half of another Swap Force character:

See? Not grumpy at all. In fact, engaging, articulate, and fairly with it as far as navigation of the game is concerned. So my question is this: what is all the fuss about screen time? Why is there such a big focus on imposing screen time limits for children? I play when I feel like it, when I have nothing better to do, picking up motor skills and tactical thinking along the way. And when I’m busy with something more interesting I can totally neglect my Skylanders for days at a time!

Do children need screen time limits?

So where does the grumpiness come from? Mummy has been keeping an eye on my screen time (not imposing limits, just monitoring), and has declared it to be the amount of time in one stretch that is significant. There have been times – not often – when she has had a work deadline, or been distracted, and I’ve been left to my own devices on the Wii for 2-3 hours. Those are the sessions which see me slouch away from the screen, glassy-eyed and moody. The next few hours are the ones when I can’t seem to think of anything to do but whine.

So it’s not about the overall screen time; my moodiness stems from the ‘caged animal’ effect of being glued to a screen for too long in one go. There is a post on Frugal Family this week about why screen time limits don’t work, and another one about how a screen-free day improved family life. Both writers talk about the need to organise and motivate the children to engage in non-screen related activities. Both remark on how worthwhile that feels, when their children readily find other pursuits, and spend time with their families. Both point out that it was easier than they thought it would be.

So, what’s your take on screen time limits? Is a regular dose of Skylanders okay, provided it’s in short bursts? Or do you have strict rules on when children can use the electricals?

 

60 thoughts on “Are my Skylanders making me grumpy? Screen time limits for children.”

  1. Hi,

    My kids are definitely grumpy when coming off the Xbox or Tablet. We have no computer games during the week now, as it was causing too many parents versus children arguments. We’re out most weekend, then when we get in, maybe whilst we make tea, they can go on for a limited amount of time. I still find it hard to get them off when time is up though, even with visual warnings, such as a timer. So, I’m not sure what the solution is.

    Our Wii needs fixing but I find they’re not so bad on there if playing fitness games. I also monitor them better if they are playing something on the tele, but on the tablet they will sneak upstairs and sometimes gain extra time as I assume they are reading or playing. The rule is No Tablet Upstairs, however they try to ignore this-sneaky things!

    I think maybe I need to view Computer screen time as something I do with them rather than alone time to better understand them. Looks like I’ll be playing Skylanders and Minecraft this weekend then! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Great post.

    Claire

    Reply
    • Ah now that’s a good point Claire – if we see screen time as a family activity rather than a free babysitter then I think it is immensely productive and useful to children growing up in an internet age. Good point.

      Reply
  2. I am in sympathy with you, its very hard to get the balance right of kids having open air play time, screen time, tv time.

    Reply
  3. I am having a battle with my son at the moment. All he says he wants to do is play on his Playstation. It is really hard trying to engage him anything else but there is no way I will let him jump straight onto his games the minute he walks through the door. He only gets it as a treat and I certainly notice his mood swings when he has been on them for a while. My husband really doesn’t help as whenever he is home early they disappear upstairs to play computer games together, making me look like the bad guy!

    Hope you find the right balance!

    Reply
    • You too. I think what I’m saying in this post is that there is definitely a place for video gaming – I think kids are generally better off for having screens in their lives – but that it needs to be just one part of an active, socially engaging lifestyle.

      Reply
  4. LOVE this post. And it’s a big question in our house too. I’m aware that today is a different world than the one we grew up in, and my dream of having the kids play outside in their spare time isn’t always an option. Also, our kids future will be SO much more screen based than ours was, so I want them to keep “with the programme”. That said, on holiday we were saddened by one family with ONE kid, who walked with her I-Pad and headphones EVERYWHERE, head down. When it gets in the way of socialisation, it’s a problem in my eyes. Everything in moderation. We got ours Kurios, largely so I could re-claim my i-phone! It’s a constant balancing act. Good luck! x

    Reply
    • I hate that Katy, when we were in Florida – Florida, of all places, land of fun!!! – we saw a family of 7 in a restaurant. Every single one of them was glued to a screen as they ate. What on earth was the point of spending all that money going out for good food if they weren’t going to engage with each other?? I dread that happening, so one of our rules is no screens at the table and I plan to stick to it, even when I have grumpy teens!

      Reply
  5. We have strict limits for screen time. None at all after 6pm as I read that it really interferes with sleep. I have noticed that certain games effect the boys more than others. so limit those ones as much as I can. It is hard to know what to do as they are the first generation with this much access and it is a great big learning curve.

    I don’t think there is a one size fits all solution, but I insist on at least one screen free activity a day, hence the January screen free prompts on my site and the facebook page.

    I make sure I grab them as they get in from school and I turn off my PC and then concentrate on them and on a screenfree activity.

    Also weekends are pretty screen free as we try and go out and have family fun as and when we can.

    Reply
    • Part of my ‘nurture’ resolution has seen me forcing myself to get us all outdoors or at least active in some way as a family at weekends and it has made such a difference to all our relationships, already! I also try to discipline myself to stay offline after school, at least until teatime – not only do the kids benefit, but I end the day feeling much better about myself as a parent as a result.

      I will check out your screen free tips Jen, I’m sure there’s more I can learn.

      Reply
  6. Mine doesn’t bother with consols anymore but I do see some kids becoming totally engrossed in them and then there should be limits.

    Reply
  7. We made the decision last year to cancel our cable subscription and we have since cancelled our TV license. We watch catch up through the xbox or DVDs only and it has worked really well on limiting how much tv we watch (when you have to keep selecting a new thing to watch on iPlayer after every episode of a CBeebies programme you become far more aware of time passing than if the channel is left to run on its own!) We did this for our own reasons, not strictly to limit Little Man’s viewing. However, that being said on the days I am home alone with him and need to work I will often put a film on for him so I can get work done as quickly as possible… and I think you are right, it is these longer stretches that put them in a really foul mood! A few episodes of something on iPlayer seems to make no difference, even if we do this 3 or 4 times throughout the day… but the equivalent time in one stretch makes him grumpy and “needy”. How interesting, I never really thought about it like this!

    Reply
    • It’s something I’ve observed recently as my son in particular would spend all day glued to a screen if we left him to his own devices. But it only takes a little bit of effort to set him onto something more productive, and he’s just as happy – more so, in fact!

      Reply
  8. Screen time here varies – I am having to curb Ozzys use though as he would sit all day on the iPad playing angry Birds given half a chance!
    I’m personally not a fan of the whole ‘screen free week thing that seems to be in vogue though ๐Ÿ™‚

    Reply
    • I agree, I think it puts too much emphasis on it as a problem. Kind of like talking about calories in front of children. Better to just exercise moderation in all things and set a good example by getting the whole family into good habits.

      Reply
  9. Like with most things, I’m keen to just find a balance. My son is nearly 18 now and although he uses his computer a fair bit, the Wii and the X Box have remained in the cupboard for many years now. When I complain if he’s on the laptop for too long then check what he’s doing, I discover that if he’s not chatting to his girlfriend he is doing quizzes! The amount of info he has soaked up over the years staggers me. Flags, capital cities, lots of geeky stuff. Quite hard to complain when it has helped him with his studies.

    Reply
  10. We only have about an hour of television here a day, whilst I cook dinner. I don’t know what we’ll do when we get to the stage of consoles! I think a timer might be an idea with a beeper that goes off after one hour max. It is so hard to teach kids how to manage their time.

    Reply
  11. I am a big believer in limiting screen time and it was definitely a lot easier than I thought! It made me realise how much I was the one relying on it. It was great to see him playing with his toys again and creating worlds with his imagination. His behavior is also much better when we limit how much he watches during the day. We still love to watch tv and enjoy the afternoon where we cuddle in to watch a Disney film which is relatively new for us and so much nicer than cbeebies. My motto for most things is moderation then you appreciate it more.

    Reply
  12. I love the disclosure. I completely agree long periods in front of a screen create grumpy small people. They get bored with what they are doing but still don’t want to stop. My husband works in the industry so loves playing with them but I do have to remind him when enough is enough x

    Reply
  13. we have 1 hour a day total on consoles plus half an hour to an hour TV at weekends. In the week they are allowed one night on one night off consoles for a max of 1 hour (after homework) then we do a family/creative activity. Yes they do moan but I find they lose their creativity if they watch too much forget toplay then moan they are bored and don’t know what to do. It is a tricky balance.

    Reply
  14. Luckily so far so good for us but I can see as the girls get older they will become more and more intrigued and want to spend more time playing on a screen so all of these posts are very useful to see how it’s going for others, as mentioned above our kids are first generation of so much availability so the responsibility lies with us parents for now

    Reply
  15. I think kids do need screen time limits. My son is addicted to the X Box. I always remind him he has to come off at a certain time. It helps as it is not in his bedroom

    Reply
  16. I must admit to not having screen time limits on TV for my children but I do for computers. I’m happy if Roo is doing something educational on her tablet but if it is just Candy Crush then there are better things she could be doing

    Reply
  17. It really does vary in our house (we have a Skylanders fan too)… My two have DS’s but associate them with travelling so only really use them on a plane on or very long car journeys (we do a lot of those!)… They do watch a tiny bit of TV from time to time, but here they have such a long day, they are usually just pleased to play or read when they get home. I am sure that will change though! ๐Ÿ˜€

    Reply
    • Same here Emma, both mine have a DS and we lend them our iPhones, but only when we’re travelling a distance, so when we’re at home they never even think to ask for them.

      Reply
  18. We don’t have screen time limits in our family, and so far it’s actually meant our kids are better at picking up and putting down their electronic devices just like any other toy. It’s a question of balance in all things isn’t it?

    I am having to keep an eye on my three year old though, as he would sit on the iPad for a lot longer than his big sister if left to his own devices. But once I’ve reminded him about his train set or toy cars he’ll happily play with those instead.

    Reply
    • This is exactly what I meant to say Ruth – it’s just another thing in their repertoire. Some days they’ll play more, others they won’t even think of it, because it’s not constantly on their agenda.

      Reply
    • I think specific days is fine, it’s just the time limits that I find makes them obsess about how and when they’re going to be able to get in front of a screen.

      Reply
  19. Such an interesting post. We limit TV time and iPad/ computer time too, but then my eldest child isn’t yet eight, so I think it will be different when she’s older. I’ll be taking notes from you!

    Reply
  20. We cancelled Sky tv last year and the kids don’t watch tv that much now. As for games consoles etc they each have one hour per school day to spend on item of their choice then it’s off. At the weekend they can have 2 hours in total and they have to decide how to manage the time in case they all want to be on the same thing. It works well at the moment. Bad behaviour means no screen time at all.

    Reply
  21. Such a hot topic at the mo… mine is just turned two so easily distractible for the meantime but I find she is demanding TV-time more and more… roll on summer when we’ll be out a lot more! And I can stick to my hour a day rule (one which defo got bent beyond bending limits over Xmas… #badmummy) x

    Reply
  22. I am actually in two minds about that. I think that screen time can help as long as it is not all the time. So if kids are spending all day only on TV, iPad or games without no interaction(besides school) with other kids, their parents and park time then is wrong!
    I allow my youngest – 13 months to watch Baby TV sometimes and she loves it. She dances and “sings” along.
    My eldest(almost 5) watches disney cartoons and she plays on the iPad. I admit sometimes too much but she loves playing the montessory games on the iPad and she learns things that i can’t teach her. Busy with the youngest and housework and so on.
    But we still have our own time together without any screens when we chat, read books,craft and go out to the park or for walks.
    so if parents can balance them then all is good!

    Reply
    • I agree, Otilia. It is all about moderation, having a balance of different activities, and as has been said above, seeing iPads and consoles as just another toy or activity amongst many means children can take it or leave it, rather than the constant obsession that seems to come from playing for very long stretches. I just find that putting a limit on things like this means that they are constantly waiting for their next ‘fix’ rather than enjoying lots of other activities.

      Reply
  23. Really great post Helen. We’re relaxed here when it comes to screen time but it’s all about balance. POD’s at nursery 4 days a week so has minimal screen time on those days. On the other ones we’ll always ensure there’s a mix of indoor and outdoor activities. She’s only 3 so she’s not played any games yet ๐Ÿ™‚

    Reply
  24. I have 2 and 3 year olds who are already addicted to YouTube. Not quite sure how that happened but needless to say they are already restricted to as little time as possible!

    Reply
  25. I’ve been worried about my little one having too much TV on during the day so have been trying to have music and such on instead so I feel for you there!

    Reply
  26. We have a ‘no tablets before school’ rule and they’re also not allowed them upstairs because we can’t monitor how long they play on them.
    They do get grumpy sometimes when they’re told to put them away but they soon stop that nonsense when reminded of the fact that they’ll lose them for a set amount of time if they carry on.
    They know we’ll carry through with it so the grumpiness is happening less and less.

    Reply
    • That’s a good point – consistency is absolutely vital if you’re going to change something. If they know what to expect they stop arguing.

      Reply
  27. We’ve had to do a bit old cold turkey on screen time this week after my 3 year old dropped and cracked the iPad. Oops! I still rely on cbeebies though as the only way in this planet I am able to get dressed before mid day…

    Reply
  28. We are very strict about tablet usage with our 3 year old. He has his own tablet that we only allow limited time on and occasionally he can use one of ours to watch something or play a game. This is always under supervision and certainly not every day.

    It was after observing his behaviour immediately after using them that we decided on such strict limits and he certainly isn’t allowed them every day.

    Reply
  29. Isaac is Skylanders mad and would play ALL DAY is given the chance.
    We have a rule in our house of an hour of screen time must be matched by an hour of outdoor play / toy play and it seems to work. It is easier to manage after school but if the weather is rubbish and its the weekend sometimes it is tougher.

    Reply
  30. Now my eldest son is 16 I try to let him be his own boss as much as possible but I do find it kind of demoralising that all he seems to want to do with every spare second he has is to play on his PS4.

    Reply
    • It’s difficult isn’t it? Even as adults we are drawn to the screen, but they have to learn to self moderate at some point I guess

      Reply
  31. We have to keep an eye on Z with the iPad as he will happily spend hours on it – watching films or TV shows on netflix mostly and then get really moody when we say it’s time to put it away. Saying that, he does not have it at all during the week and does not ask for it. Watches a bit of telly after school while I make dinner and then it is up for bath and stories etc. As soon as Saturday comes around though, the iPad will be the first thing he asks for after breakfast. Everything in moderation is my motto… including moderation ๐Ÿ™‚

    Reply
    • Exactly. I think the problem with limits is that they create a routine, and then the gut instinct is to ask for it whether they really want it or not. My kids have gotten into the habit of watching youtube videos on a Saturday morning, and I hate that it’s the first thing they think of after breakfast. I much prefer for their screen time to be ad-hoc and intermittent, then it’s never an issue.

      Reply
  32. I am so agreeing with you about kids and grumpiness particularly with the boy in household. He is into his TV and his Wii U at the moment and is the first thing that he asks to do when he walks through the door. We usually relent after tea, unless mummy is shattered or needs to work. I have noticed two things with him, any more than a hour in a stretch and we get Victor too. He can be more problematic to get to settle in bed as well if we have watched TV just before bedtime as well. So his obsession with Dancing on Ice is proving problematic as its on quite late! Thanks for linking up to the Parenting Pin in Party this week my dear xx

    Reply
  33. I’m still in the monitoring phase of this…
    Ethan would sit on the Xbox all day if allowed and I also find that long periods and he gets moody. However I don’t like to make rules I can’t keep and sometimes allowing him on them lets me get on with things (like now). Tilly can take them or leave them so it’s not an issue. In between both have busy and active social lives and work hard at school so I think they’re entitled to a bit of down time in whichever way they chose.

    Reply
    • Agreed – I think the trick lies in never letting a full day of video gaming happen, and ensuring that they focus on a variety of activities over the course of each day. I think rules and set times just create more desire to play, and so more tension around it.

      Reply
  34. I have all this to come I suppose, it’s great to be aware of these things though and I will think about limiting the time if and when I have to cross that bridge.

    Great post!! X

    Reply
  35. Hi Helen. Thanks so much for including my post! I do indeed think that imposing limits on screen time is essential, for the exact reasons you explain. My son (in fact so are the girls at times) can be impossible when he is so engrossed in a game, he becomes a totally different child and I almost see the horrible, grungy, screen-obsessed teen he COULD become! That is something I want to stop happening. So, I have a one hour limit (at any one time) and if I get the grumps when I ask him to turn it off, he is not allowed any time at all the next day. Simples. I’ve had to enforce it a few times but not at all for at least a year. If you suggest something that you can realistically carry through, then do it at least once, I think they eventually learn. Good luck! My son was exactly like this at 6 yrs of age. He also is mad on Skylanders Swap Force!

    Reply
  36. I think too much screen time almost immediately affects their patience and ability to concentrate. It affects me the same way too!

    Reply
  37. I agree with don’t….although we use it as a punishment. For general life though we see they aren’t so desperate to be on it if there’s no limit….

    Reply
  38. The boy was becoming addicted to the i-pad so we took it away for a while and his mood improved – he is still a TV monster and some days we have a battle on our hands trying to get him to do stuff. We tend to spend a lot of time outdoors so he’s not tempted by the screens but we do switch the TV off after breakfast.

    Reply

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

error: Content is protected !!