Challenge Set! Structuring Their (Screen) Time.

(Word Count Alert!!! – This one got away from me! Sorry!)

With tongue in cheek… I just don’t get it. I don’t. My three older children who have their own iPad devices would if I allowed them to, watch hour after hour of YouTube videos of random kids all over the world either;

  • unboxing toys and showing them off;
  • playing with said, or other, toys;
  • making slime;
  • putting on makeup;
  • playing sports – and failing at what they’re attempting to do;
  • making other various crafts and art;
  • making other various crafts and art whilst putting on makeup and unboxing toys, or makeup;
  • and god only knows what else. 😉

When I suggest to my cherubs that they either unbox the copious amounts of toys they have to open yet from Christmas’ come and gone, or make their own slime, or get outside and be even remotely active… I am met with a look that suggests I’ve asked them to cut off a limb!

Having been conscious of this coming into the term 1 – holiday break, and dare I mention the dreaded words of ‘lockdown’, ‘isolation’, or even ‘quarantine’,  I was somewhat determined to more so limit screen time rather than the limit and cut off the hours spent on YouTube and other video sharing sites.

In segway-ing into the purpose of this post – during my time working in schools, I have led large and small scale 1:1 iPad programs. One of the largest concerns I am faced with from parents and caregivers is usually the amount of screen time that their child is being exposed to – usually more so at home. One way that I have been able to effectively manage screen time for all of my lovely squids is through using Apple’s Family Sharing and Screen Time feature. As a parent, the ability to lock out apps, limit daily usage, and identify where their use is being directed is an absolute godsend! Maybe a little over the top yet, it has helped immensely! 

What has also helped with this is that I add iPad time when homework is completed, choirs are done, and behaviour has been above par! Once upon a time, it was a chocolate treat or something similar. Nowadays, it’s an additional iPad time. How times change.

With the above being taken into account, as well as again, trying to steer my darlings away from watching… ONLY YouTube videos, I decided to structure their screen time, and more so iPad time, by throwing out some challenges and projects for them to complete. To be honest, I thought that this idea would crash and burn however they have responded to what’s been set well. Their enthusiasm and motivation to complete these challenges have been great and I am pretty proud of them for seeing them through.

In setting these challenges and knowing my kids, I knew that there needed to be a few parameters around what I was setting. My kids are highly competitive and see anything that is deemed to be a challenge or pits one against another as competition – something that I was wanting to avoid. The parameters I set may differ for other kids and families however, they worked for us and until the wheels fall off, I’ll continue with them. There are only 3 and this is how they were pitched.

  1. You are rewarded for attempting the challenges being set. This is not about competition and who is the best. It is about participation, being challenged, and giving it a go! 
  2. Time limits are set. Challenges are not ongoing and or to last years at a time! 
  3. You must give it your best. No half baked attempts or deciding to opt-in purely to get a reward. I need to feel that you’ve not given your best.

Although thus far we’ve focused largely on Minecraft this time around, we as a family have built a little bank of future challenges that I’ve also listed below. These were largely driven by the kids which is great as it’s much better they have some agency over these rather than me simply “telling them what to do”. They are somewhat generic and previously I’ve had to ‘steer’ them in certain directions or guide them as to what they could do! If you as a reader have also other ideas that you have used, or not, I’d be keen on hearing them so please comment and share away! 🙂

Here we go!

  • Build It!
    • Minecraft. It’s a winner. What can I say? By setting challenges that are both individual and cooperative (having all 3 of my kids in a Minecraft world and building something together) is a great place to start! Minecraft is easy to use and get the hang of, age is certainly not a barrier as my 5-year old demonstrated, and most of all it’s great fun! As for challenge ideas;
      • Build a house… (simple and stock standard, I know, but a great place to start and allows them to test their Minecraft skills!) This can also be extended upon and filtered. For example, a treehouse, your dream bedroom, a haunted house, etc…
      • Give them a theme. Here they need to recreate a setting or part thereof. This can be challenging yet also a lot of fun! Ie. A castle, with a knight and a dragon. Or an underwater world. Or an Egyptian theme. And so on.
      • Visual prompts to recreate. This is one that I have used in my classrooms in the past for certain inquiry units. A great example of this was showing students an indigenous setting and have them recreate it. Additionally, a picture of the HMAS Bounty and building this! With my kids, it’s been usually something a little more scaled back, such as a particular building or landmark. Bes t example I can give is watching a family film about a recent holiday and having them recreate their favourite part.
      • Collaborative projects. Having my three kids in one world and collaborating on a project has been great. Funnily enough, they work extremely well together in these spaces. If I asked them to build something outside, it’d be world war 3. The possibilities with a collaborative approach are endless. Examples I have used, and some I have not, are;
      • Theme Park
      • Zoo / Farm
      • A Magical / Fantasy Garden
      • A Skyscraper / Large Building
      • A movie set/object recreation, such as a setting from The LEGO Movie.
  • Film It! 
    • Rather than watching YouTube videos and or films – have the kids make their own! This is a great one to get the entire family involved too by giving all a role – whether it be in front or behind the camera!
      • Local news program. Get your squids to be the local neighbourhood reporters. They may be able to talk about the great things about their neighbour, interview some of the local stars (their parents!), and anything else that they can think of.
      • Showcase their talents. Have them think of something they’re great at. This may be making loom bands, painting, sports skills, etc… Have them create a “how-to” and teach the world! An oldie but a goodie.
      • Possibly not one for a lockdown period, however, have the kids create a commercial for a local business that they may have previously connected with! See if the business owner/operator will post it on their Facebook or other social media page. This could be for the local milk bar, fish and chip shop, cafe’, etc.
      • Finally, I have had last week my kids engage with several online live readings by an amazing and talented Australian Author in Gus Gordon. Gus has written and illustrated many sensational picture storybooks such as ‘Wendy’, ‘Somewhere Else’ and my all-time favourite – ‘Herman and Rosie’. Have your kids reading and record their favourite picture storybooks and share their readings with others. This may be via your own Instagram / Facebook pages or simply with family via a shared Google link. Alternatively – upload them to YouTube and share them that way – either privately or go all out and make them public!
  • Shoot It!
    • Providing you can get out and about as a family and it may, as the current climate sees it, locally and in a small group whilst keep the social distancing guidelines in play, have the kids go on a local photo hunt – taking photos of anything and everything that interests them.
      • Using the images that they have taken – they can create a great photo collage or photo story.
      • Have them edit and alter 3-5 of their favourite images in an app of their choice and get them printed and framed!
      • Stop motion animation is a great thing to introduce to kids! Watch an episode of Shaun the Sheep or Wallace and Gromit for example and tell your kids how these are made. The lego movie is another great example – which I believe was more CGI than stop motion but hey – still a great example! It’s highly likely they’ll not know. There are many great Stop Motion app’s out there and just about any will do to start!
  • Mix It! 
    • I am – in no way what whatsoever, musically talented. Thankfully – the wonderful world of technology and music creation applications allows me to occasionally hide my severe lack of talent.
      • Garage Band is a must-have – whether you’re into music or not. The live loops feature is BRILLIANT and from this, you can easily spend hours remixing and creating music for whatever purpose you and or your kids see fit! Give them a theme to follow, a mood to recreate – anything!
      • Once upon a time, there was an amazing app called MadPad. It allowed you to film sounds that you would create, such as by banging on a bin lid, slapping the end of a pipe, etc… and capture these within the app. You could have them use these sounds – up to 9 if I remember rightly, and mix them. Much like using the Live Loops from Garage Band above however going that one step further and creating the loops yourself. Something that could easily be replicated.
      • I’ve added this only because it is awesome! Isle of Tune is a great app that lets kids create a road for cars to drive on and when those cars – which drive themselves, go past certain objects (trees, houses, lamp posts) – they play a tune. The possibilities are endless! Well worth a shot!
  • Additional Extra – Play It!
    • Playing video games – either via a tablet such as an iPad or through a gaming console can be great fun! Growing up – I am highly guilty of playing many a video game – and to be honest – still do now occasionally. In addressing the purpose of this post – and that being how do we structure screen time to be more than just a passive activity – the issue fo video games and gaming creeps up a lot. My son, 10yo, has recently been granted ‘Fortnite’ privileges. Something he’s been hounding me about for the better part of 18months. Yep – I finally caved. And we’re both enjoying it! 😉 
      • So how do we turn this ‘mainly ‘passive activity into something else? I am asking as I do not have the answer. 😉 I am a big fan of eSports and what they have to offer. The recent and rapid rise of The FUSE Cup is testament to just how big eSports is and can be. 2017 saw the League of Legends final mass a total of 58 million viewers, more than the MLB, NBA and NHL finals series in the same year. Enough said.
        • So. This is one that we need to think more about. The competitiveness within video games is what largely drives those who play it. Fortnite is a great example of that. Mario Kart is a great example of that. I encourage my kids to play video games as there are benefits – many. There are also dangers – many. The trick here as a parent – and of course personally speaking – is to find a balance between games that are suitable coupled with a correct ‘dosage’ of time allowed to be playing them.

There we go. As I mentioned in sentence 1 – word count alert! Thanks for reading and again if you have any other ideas which I am sure people do… please comment and share! :

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1 Reply to “Challenge Set! Structuring Their (Screen) Time.

  1. I really enjoyed this piece on digital parenting and wondered what it might look like with my two daughters. The eldest can list all the fears around screentime, but is happy to sit and watch videos while playing Lego or drawing. What I like about the ‘challenges’ is that it is not about how much screentime, instead it is about how that time is used. This was something Mitch Resnick discussed in this extract from Life-Long Kindergarten. The only addition I wonder about is something like Duolingo. Is this a challenge or too educational?

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