Say Goodbye to the Screen Time Struggle with Screen Coin #MBPHGG18

I partnered with Screen Coin on this sponsored post. All thoughts are my own.

When the new school year began a few weeks ago, I was excited to see those first day of school pictures from friends and share my own children's photos, as well. As I scrolled through my social media feeds, I notice a recurring theme... parents everywhere were posting those cute pictures of their kids with the following caption, 'Goodbye Fortnite, hello new school year!' While I had been fighting my own screen time battle with my seven-year-old son over the summer, it looked as though some of my friends were even worse off!

We didn't travel as much as we usually do as a family this past summer. I worked a lot more, and the kids were home much more than they're used to. Some days, I would come home and find the television on and I would ask my husband- 'Have they been watching TV all day?' Of course, I never meant to be accusatory, but our son's attitude had gone from angelic to... well, much worse over the course of the summer, all thanks to screen time.

When I stop and think about how much technology has changed in my lifetime (35 years), I am so blown away, and honestly can't imagine how my parents and grandparents have felt with all that they have seen change through the years. My kids are two and seven, and they will never know a life without screens. I'm not poo-pooing screens or technology, but even I have to force myself to put my phone down after work hours to spend time with my family, actually be present in the moment and set a good example for my kids.

The struggle is real, but there's an awesome solution!

Our kids are using technology at such a young age. They utilize it at home for entertainment purposes, perhaps on trips, and most certainly in school. It's almost impossible to escape it, really,  and while it can be an incredibly helpful tool/resource, it can also really lead to a bevy of issues if not controlled and limited.

Those Fornite comments I mentioned earlier? Isn't that just kind of sad? I mean, I get it... kids like to play video games on their consoles (mine loves LEGO Dimension and Disney Infinity) or phones (Dancing Line, anyone?) and it's easy for them to become obsessed with them, but at the end of the day, who's in charge? Certainly not the kids, right? This is to all of the moms, dads, caregivers, teachers- YOU are in charge... not the kids. YOU dictate how much screen time they can have... not them. Screen time isn't a right- it's a privilege. 

If anyone knows this song and dance when it comes to the battle of the screens, it's Andy and Michele. The Wilkoffs, a husband and wife team, created Screen Coin, an easy-to-use system of currency for families, which helps kids learn to balance their screen time. The Wilkoffs developed ScreenCoin after going through their own screen time struggles with their kids, ages 6 & 10. This smart system is designed not only to help parents and kids get on the same page about screen time use, but it also teaches kids valuable lessons about priorities, money, and of course, time management.

So, what is ScreenCoin?

Screen Coin is essentially a system of currency for kids. Andy and Michele created coins with a 3D printer and then set to develop a currency system with them, for screen time. Genius, right? But how does it work, and how do you hold everyone accountable?

Take a look at my family's personal experience with Screen Coin

Step 1- The Family Meeting

Before we did anything, my husband and I sat down to have a conversation about our precious kids, and how much screen time they were getting. Our oldest craves screen time, and when he has too much of it, his attitude is negatively impacted. We realized that we as parents needed to do more to monitor his screen time, and that we also needed to get the grandparents who sometimes help watch our kids, on the same page. A united front across the board is the first step to the screen time solution.

After we agreed that we needed to make a change and hold our kids (and ourselves) accountable for screen time usage, we were ready to give Screen Coin a try. We called our oldest to the living room, and we all sat down together to have a talk about screen time use, to set limits and outline expectations in terms of attitude.

I'm going to be completely honest and tell you that our son wasn't happy about implementing a system to manage his screen time. He was used to us being very lenient with him about screen time and was prepared to 'fight for his right' to screen time. Once we explained that this wasn't a punishment of any kind and that we weren't implementing new rules or limits because of anything he did, and also explained that we'd be setting the same limits for his toddler sister, he was singing a different tune.

Step 2- The Contract

This is what really helps to make the system work well- a customized screen time contract between parent and child. Once you purchase a Screen Coin system, you'll be directed to create your contract on the Screen Coin website. This is a form that you and your kiddos can easily sit down and create together. We found that it was helpful to allow our son to have a little input when it came to creating the rules for the contract, such as:

General Rules for Using the Coins
The Coin Value and Time Limits
Conditions & Exclusions
Ways to Earn Additional Coins

The general rules are already pretty well laid out for you. You can pick and choose which rules you want to include in your customized Screen Coin Contract, and you can also add your own. We included rules like, 'No trading coins,' 'Caregivers can take away any or all coins at their discretion,' etc. We made sure that our son fully understood what these rules meant before moving on to the next section of the contract, which is Coin Value.

The thing I love about this contract is that you (the parent/caregiver) and go ahead and figure out the max limit of screen time you want to allow your child the opportunity to have in a day. Once you figure that part out, you can assign value (in minutes) to each of the coins. We set our initial limit at 90 minutes. With six coins, that broke the value down to 15 minutes per coin. There's also the option to allow kids to earn extra coins by completing tasks. We opted to allow two additional or extra coins, at the same value (15 minutes each) for a total max of 2 hours of screen time a day, which can be used any day of the week from our selected start time (7 am) to coin usage end time (7:30 pm).

Conditions for use and exclusions are all outlined in the contract.
We made it clear that certain tasks would have to be completed before any screen coins can be redeemed, like, 'eat breakfast in the morning,' or 'finish homework' in the afternoons, etc.
You can select exclusions if you want to include those. Sometimes we're not always sticking to the same schedule day in and day out, so we wanted to allow for exceptions, such as family events, vacations, movie nights, etc.

Ways to Earn More Coins

We didn't want to give our son lots of opportunities to earn additional coins for screen time. We know him pretty well and figure that he'll do just about anything to earn more screen time. While some chores can be done in our home to earn a little extra time, we want our kids to be of the mentality that those are expectations, not extras. Helping out with projects or things that we wouldn't consider the norm are the things that will allow B to earn extra screen time. The beauty of the contract is that you can discern and implement what works best for your family and your child.

Once the contract is finalized, submit your customizations via the online form provided by Screen Coin. Within minutes, you'll be e-mailed a PDF version of the contract to print at home. Once printed, you can sit down with your child and read over everything one more time. The next step is to have all parties sign the contract. This is an important part of making sure your Screen Coin implementation is successful.

Step 3- Use the System

I knew we made the right decision when our son asked, 'Okay, so how do we start?' He was eager and willing to give it a shot from the very beginning. We introduced the system in the afternoon, and he immediately moved two coins, totaling 30 minutes over to the 'used' side of the Screen Coin tray. He knew exactly how much time he had left to spend using a screen after all of the expected tasks were completed. No whining, no crying, no arguing, no more battles between parent and child.

The result?

Everyone in the house seems happier, and we're actually spending more time together. Instead of everyone watching a show, checking e-mails or social media, and playing games on phones simultaneously, we're doing things like engaging in conversation, playing board games, working on hobby projects, reading, or playing with toys. Heck, we've even had a few family dance parties! We're getting back to the heart of family life, and we owe a great deal of thanks to Screen Coin for helping us solve our screen time woes.

Tools for Success

Purchasing a Screen Coin system is the first step to putting an end to the screen time battle. The Screen Coin website really gives you all of the resources and advice that will help you and your child succeed with the system. Have the conversation with your child about screen time usage, and then customize the contract and sign it together. Once your child gets into the habit of moving their coins and tracking their time with your help, it'll be second nature to them.

Check in with your child before they begin a session of screen time. Make sure tasks have been accomplished beforehand, and always ask, 'Are you sure you want to use your coin?' If the child's answer is 'yes,' move the coin to the other side of the tray and start the timer. Remind your child how much time they have and that when the timer goes off, the screen goes off.

Once screen time is up, go and do something else.
 If you can, participate in an activity with your child.

Since we started using Screen Coin, our son's attitude has improved, and he offers to pitch in and help with numerous chores. He's much more pleasant and doesn't feel a constant need to be looking at a screen. It's wonderful to see our young son learning how to manage and save time, and decide how he wants to spend his coins.

We're so happy with the results we've seen so far! I'm always hesitant to make a claim that a product has been life-changing, but in this case, it certainly has been!

Want it? Get it!

You can purchase Screen Coin for $9.99, and it's available in five colors. Screen Coin Co-Founder Michele has a background in psychology and a Masters in Social Work and shares lots of helpful insight on the Screen Coin blog. Be sure to check it out!

Connect with Screen Coin on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, IG, and YouTube.

Special thanks to Andrew and Michele Wilkoff for sharing their wonderful product with my family and allowing me to share about it! Be sure to look for Screen Coin in our 2018 Holiday Gift Guide!

Are you tired of fighting the screen time battle? 

Let's chat about it. Leave a comment or chat with us on MBP social media!

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