Screen Time Experiment


If there’s one thing I fight about with my kids, it’s screen time. Never mind the fact–not lost on my kids, I might add–that I work at a computer all day. It drives me nuts to watch my kids stare into a screen, seemingly unable to tear themselves away from a game where they are blowing something–anything!–to bits.

Because I don’t want to create more opportunities for family disharmony, we don’t have an Xbox, or a Wii, or a PlayStation or any of those hand-held thingies. (My kids, and even my husband, think¬† my reasoning is beyond faulty, but that’s another story.) Since there’s no shortage of computers in our house, my kids make the most of what they have–playing Minecraft, Cities XL, and searching for photos of kittens and puppies.

My 10-year-old son Henrik and I have epic battles about screen time. So this summer I decided to do an experiment, which was to see how much time Henrik would spend on a computer or in front of the TV if I didn’t set any limits.

When I presented this idea to Henrik, the expression on his face made it clear he thought I had lost my mind. But when I told him the only condition was that I could post the results on the UNBORED website, he happily agreed and asked when the experiment could start.

The only rules were that I was allowed to suggest other things to do if they naturally arose. That means if a friend called to hang out, I could tell him.

Here is how the day went:

8:00-10:15 a.m.¬† Henrik wakes up, gets his dad’s laptop, and proceeds to play HAWX 2 from the comfort of his bed.

10:15-11:00 a.m. Henrik declares he is bored and hungry so he logs out and eats breakfast. He also watches an episode of “The Suite Life on Deck” where Zach and Cody are bald and pretend to be monks.

11:00-11:45 a.m. Boredom is apparently short lived. More HAWX 2.

11:40 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Henrik’s friend Martin wants to play golf. With a small amount of encouragement from his dad, who really wants to play too, Henrik agrees to join him.

2:30-7:30 p.m. Henrik goes to Martin’s house. They spend one hour playing on Martin’s Xbox 360 and one hour watching the Olympics.

7:45-10:15 p.m. Back home to play Minecraft.

Total screen time: 8 hours

Reflections/conclusions: My honest feeling was that the results weren’t as horrible as I feared they would be. I don’t love that Henrik spent 8 hours glued to a screen, but I was able to also recognize that he did other things that day as well.

As for Henrik, he loved it. And when I pointed out the important fact that when, given the choice, he chose a friend over his screen time, he gave me another one of those are your serious? looks. “Of course I chose my friend, mom,” he said. “I always want to be with my friends.”