Summer vacation, moving, unpacking, settling in, etc have all added up to me letting Mr Rockstar have WAY too much IPad time in the last month or so. It is just so tempting to let him have it since nothing calms him down like the IPad and it is about the only time I can leave him alone without having to check in on him every 3-5 minutes. However, it has officially has spiraled out of control. Not only is it not good for him to be spending so much time on the IPad but I always end up paying for it later when I need him to get off it or do something else and he is a complete grump.
Last week I finally had it and started trying to implement an IPad usage reduction plan. To say Mr Rockstar took to the new plan poorly would be a gross understatement. So after a few days of endless bad attitude, whining, and aggressive outbursts, I finally decided today the IPad needed to go on vacation. This morning I explained to Mr Rockstar that the IPad had been working so hard lately that it needed a vacation for a few days. Then I reinstituted an old incentive plan we call the “sticker store”. Basically with the “sticker store”, Mr Rockstar earns stickers for positive behavior and compliance. Once he gets 50 stickers he can turn the sheet of stickers in for a small toy. Whenever I see a toy (Hotwheel, Trains, Legos, Transformers, etc) on clearance that Mr Rockstar might like, I pick it up and add it to the sticker store.
This morning after I explained the IPad was on vacation but “sticker store” was coming back, I took him to the basement, pulled out all the sticker store items and let him pick one to start earning stickers towards. I couldn’t believe he actually ACCEPTED THE IPAD WAS ON VACATION! Woohoo! Maybe it should go on vacation more often lol. Not only did he accept it, he actually started playing with legos and his attitude and concentration are already getting better.
At the Children’s Autism Center, they were struggling with Mr Rockstar’s behavior the first week and finally found that giving Mr Rockstar 2.5 minutes of IPad time once he earned 3 stars was a great incentive for him. When I first started cutting back Mr Rockstar’s IPad time last week I tried to implement a similar system; however, since he was going from getting lots of time at home to only a few 5 min sessions per day he was pretty unhappy. I hope when the IPad comes back from vacation 5 minutes will seem like a reward instead of a punishment. After we all “recalibrate, my goal is to get Mr Rockstar to under an hour each day for educational apps and 20-30 minutes on his fun games earned as 5 minute increments throughout the day.
As a side note, last week when I started this process I looked into various apps (ParentKit, Family Protector, Timelock, Mobcap Premium) for the IPad that purport to help you track and control your child’s iPad usage. None of them actually work the way you would hope they would, all of them were quite glitchy, and the safe browsers really just disabled the entire internet. They also were relatively easy to get around …for instance if you just turned off the wifi or changed the date on the IPad it would thwart some of the functionality.
The best solution I found (and the cheapest) was to:
For Limiting Usage:
Set a passcode that implements as soon as the IPad goes to sleep. Then use the Timer in the Clock App and set it to lock out the iPad when the timer goes off (see instructions here). I simply set the timer for 5 minutes and when the timer goes off the iPad locks out the child.
Limit which Apps can be Used:
There are NO options I could find that could limit a child’s access to some apps but not others. You can use the IPad’s Guided Access Feature to lock the iPad inside one educational app for instance but you can’t give you child the choice of some apps but not others. We are fortunate to own two IPads so I have designated one for educational apps and one for everything else.
You can go into the IPad settings, under restrictions, and severely limit the websites that are available on Safari. You build a list of acceptable websites. Also the app Mobicip (good on Android and iOS) was the one internet security app that seemed pretty decent. For instance it allows videos on YouTube that have been deemed ok for kids but blocks other videos. Mobicip basic is free. Mobicip Premium allows you to monitor which apps have been installed or deleted off the iPad (but it DOESN’T monitor app usage….just any changes on which apps on on the iPad), internet browsing history, allows you to limit daily time spent in the mobicip internet browser, and it lets your child request blocked websites and you can approve or deny their request. I could see the premium subscription being useful if I had older children but for now the only benefit to me is the customized internet search….but I can do that with Safari and save myself the $40/year. So for the time being I am letting the kids use Mobicip free for internet browsing and if they want a specific blocked webpage I am adding it to their list of limited Safari websites they can visit.
Cold Turkey or No?
So what has been your experience at trying to backdown the amount of time your kids spend on electronic media? Do you go cold turkey or slowly try to wean them back down to a reasonable amount?
P.S. Mr Rockstar did whine some more this afternoon but then he found the Disney Read-A-Lomg audio tapes and books from my childhood (totally dating myself here) and I was able to find my old Walkman. Somehow listening to tapes on book seems fundamentally different than watching a cartoon. Do you agree?