Limiting screen time – take 2

2018-11-29T21:26:44+00:00April 14th, 2011|Categories: Reading Incentives, Reluctant Readers|6 Comments

The system worked. The deal was simple: boys, you want to watch TV, play your video games, borrow my iPhone, fine. But you have to read, too. At *least* an equal amount of time.  That’s how Reading Rewards was born, and it was a very simple system that worked brilliantly.

They wanted to watch TV, so they had to read. We spent time picking and choosing the best books for them. We started ‘family reading time’ in the evening: every night at 8pm, we all got together in the living room to read together. They started reading more, and the more they read, the more they wanted to read. It was self-fulfilling, and I thought: a-ha! I’ve found the magic formula!

But life got busy again, and we ‘relaxed’ our rules. I started consulting work for clients again, while still trying to work on my website. While I carried on with bedtime stories with my youngest, we started leaving the boys to themselves a bit more. It seemed there was always ‘a favorite show’ they just had to watch, and by the time it was finished, they were too tired to read.

A couple of weeks ago, my younger guy got an iPod touch. At around the same time I realized how much he was struggling with Book 4 in the Harry Potter series, which I discussed here. Between the iPod and all their ‘favorite’ shows, I realized they have not finished a book in weeks (except for those that are for school).

How did this happen? Here I am, working so hard on a program designed to get kids reading, and I’ve ignored the nagging little voice inside my head that was saying: hey, what’s going on, why aren’t the boys reading?

So tonight, I laid down the law again, and was pleased to see I got no resistance from them.

Soooo… As of today, they are allowed TV in the morning, for a few minutes while we get their breakfast ready. They get 15-30 minutes ‘wind-down’ time after school before homework, piano and supper. Anything more, they have to earn by reading. They were happy we decided to do this again, I think they must have missed our old routine. Of course we’re tracking it all on 🙂

What do you think about our TV time rules? Too much, still? Have you had to lay down the law about screen time in your household?

About the Author:

Reading Rewards
Reading Rewards is a comprehensive & interactive reading log & reading incentive program that is used worldwide by hundreds of thousands of children, parents, teachers and librarians. Find out more about our reading program.


  1. Read Aloud Dad April 14, 2011 at 1:40 pm - Reply

    Great Michelle! I’m 100% behind you on this.

    I love your old/new system. TV just robs time. It’s a sneaky thing…

    You know, my kids are almost 4-year old and I’m still not fighting them on TV issues, but this could crop up.

    What I try to do with my wife is the following: we never watch TV in front of them.

    Also whenever I see their urge to watch TV – it prompts me into action – to find a book.

    On some days, I just plug it out the night before and no one is allowed to plug it in (parents included). We have several non-TV days in the week.

    My kids usually watch some TV when their nanny takes care of them, but we never turn it on when we (wife and me) are home and the kids are not in bed.

    Reading Rewards is a perfect system for solving these problems – I hope that you keep RR online for a long time, as I plan on using it when my kids are a little older.

    Read Aloud Dad

    • Michelle Skamene April 14, 2011 at 4:23 pm - Reply

      I’m always impressed and in awe of parents like yourself who have such strict TV standards. I really believe you are doing your kids a huge favor, in that if that’s what they grow up knowing, they don’t end up missing it. The best I am aiming is simply limiting the time they spend in front of the tube. I don’t want to give out the wrong impression: my kids are extremely active in school, sports and music. It is not like they are spending HOURS watching TV. But with such busy schedules, even the little bit of ‘downtime’ in front of the TV is what keeps them from reading for any sustained amount of time. There just aren’t enough minutes in the day!! I love your commitment to your kids’ quality time, I can’t wait to see how it all turns out for you. And I also hope Reading Rewards will still be around for you to use it with your little ones when they get old enough. 🙂

      • Read Aloud Dad April 14, 2011 at 6:39 pm - Reply

        Thanks Michelle, there is really no need to be impressed.

        In fact (don’t tell my kids) I love TV – so I know how great its allure is. Probably that’s the reason why I am trying to be extra cautious. TV has changed a lot since I was a boy, now its a 24-hour 200-channel extravaganza. There is always something interesting on.

        The easy way out. In fact, its the easy way out for me too. So, I’m fighting my own urges!

        I may have sounded preachy – (and I’m sorry if I did).

        In fact, I’m just trying to keep myself in check, and then I know my kids will follow suit!

        That’s another reason why I adore Reading Rewards and I know it is and will be a smashing hit! It helps to give you a real measure of effort and love that one invests in books and education.

        Read Aloud Dad

  2. Melissa @imaginationsoup April 14, 2011 at 8:59 pm - Reply

    The only thing I don’t like is that it seems like reading is punitive — like eating veggies. Perhaps I’m misreading what you’re saying? I wouldn’t set reading up like this – in fact, I’d rather say, you get to read!! not you have to read.

    • Michelle Skamene April 14, 2011 at 10:03 pm - Reply

      Hi Melissa, I certainly understand your perspective. My issue is that, for too long, we did not really put any real limits on their screen time. Without any intervention, my boys would not, on their own, choose reading over playing on the Wii or watching TV. They are 10 and 12 now, and I’ve *never* made reading sound like a punishment. THEY don’t see it as a punishment. But reading is not their first choice, when given one 🙂 I’m just trying to carve out some time in their schedules for reading, which they do enjoy with the right books. The last thing I would ever do is have them associate reading with any negative feelings or punishment, but I can see where it could appear that way. As I mentioned in the post, there was no resistance to the deal, because for them, it means a re-introduction or new commitment to our ‘family reading time’, which they loved and would choose over TV. 🙂 The tag line on my website is ‘The reward is in the reading’, which I really believe. The kids get it, too..
      Does that make sense?

      • Melissa @imaginationsoup April 15, 2011 at 2:59 am - Reply

        Yes, that’s helpful – and why I was asking if I wasn’t getting your intention. Thanks for the clarification!! I think it’s awesome that you’re so reflective about your screen time and doing what works best for your family.


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