The Screen Regulator


    As much as I love what technology adds to my life, I wish I didn’t have so many screens to regulate because it's exhausting.

    My parents don't know how fortunate they were to have only one screen to police. Just a lonely, un-pausable television, not even a VCR or DVD player or DVR to keep it company.

    As much as I love my instant access to my wanton binge of the Orange is the New Black television series, I wish I didn’t have so many screens to regulate. Because it's exhausting.

    Our screen rule is such:

    No screen use from Monday morning to Friday afternoon.

    The TV, iPads, iPod Touches, handheld games and Wii fall under this screen umbrella, as does the computer, which my older son is only allowed to use for homework. There are sometimes exceptions with television shows if we are watching in the evening as a family. We like America's Got Talent or Get Out Alive or American Ninja Warrior, for instance.

    The boys, it will shock you not, are not down with this rule. Because if it's a Tuesday after school and they want to look at pictures of Jedi online or get to the next level in Lego Star Wars Wii or follow their friend who just got Instagram or make 17 goofy movie trailers or build a Minecraft fortress or feed some DragonVale dragons or check email – they cannot. They must wait until Friday after school, when they sprint down to the basement television and play the episodes of The Amazing Adventures of Gumball that they missed.

    They complain, but they have no idea how sweet they have it. If I couldn't watch The Incredible Hulk, there was no episode waiting patiently for me on the DVR. If I slept too late on Saturday morning, I missed The Bugs Bunny Show. I could not Demand it from Comcast. I could not just retrieve the entire season of Fantasy Island. If I didn’t finish cleaning my room before the start of the network television event Shogun, I missed those precious minutes, and there was no to help me work out my confusion over the plot as it did the other day when I only caught the last hour of This is The End.

    The boys, especially 9-year-old Maxon, lobby daily for amendments. As a result, I happen to know the screen habits of almost every child in Maxon's class. In fact, Maxon created a chart for me, comparing his rules to those at his friend's house. Lots of capital letters and underlining.

    I was not swayed. When it comes to these rules, especially with screen games, I am a towering fortress of NO. And not just because I've written 22 health tips about how bad excessive screen time is for children and their developing brains. I also lock these screen rules in place because I think it's healthy to wait for things you want. I believe it makes their Saturday mornings sweeter, their Friday nights more special. When they come home from school this afternoon and run downstairs to turn on the set, we can all feel good about it.