When I read this brilliantly written article by Ben Machell in The Times Magazine this weekend, it completely resonated with me. My 7 year old son Harry and I invented TimeTokens to give us some "stopping rules" out of desperation. I was fed up with him spending hour after hour on screens inevitably ending in a huge row and neither of us having any control.
As Ben recalls, when we were young, we had the natural screentime breaks of the news or something equally dull that made you do something else... Sunday afternoon football results were my instant turn off!
No such boredom exists today. Thanks to online compilations, a child can watch 3 hours of Peppa pig with NO interruption. Adam Alter (the psychologist Machell speaks to) reinforces this "the stopping rule has been replaced by default continuation rule. And it's part of what makes these experiences so hard to manage".
The other issue we had before TimeTokens was Harry would turn to tech whenever he was bored. As Machell says "You want to ensure you don't make it too easy for them to turn devices into a mental crutch. They get bored? Turn to the device. The have half an hour to kill? Turn to the device. They're unsure what to do next? Turn to the device. That's when it starts getting dangerous."
Encouraging a healthy screentime balance in this modern world and empowering your child to manage their own time on screens has to be the answer.
When we came up with idea for TimeTokens it was a simple solution to a problem we were struggling with. We had instant results and we realised that this simple solution was actually solving a lot more than we initially thought. Giving your child some responsibility and the initial skills to learn self control = the perfect "stopping rule".
Thank you Ben Machell for shinning a light on this hot potato. When your kids turn 5, a free pack of TimeTokens is winging it's way to you! :-)