How a $30 gadget ended a years-long battle between my kids and me
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Screen time has been an ongoing battle between me and my kids from the moment my now nine-year-old son was able to put the letters T and V together. The fact that we homeschool sometimes makes this issue worse, since technically I could allow them screen time at any point in the day.
I've tried it all: the Disney Circle, apps like OurPact and UnGlue, having no screen time at all on specified days, and even seeing if my kids would self-regulate if given unlimited access to the TV. None of it worked for us long term. The daily battle of the wills that has worn down my resolve on more than one occasion, and even after all these years of fighting over screen time, I never could come up with a good solution. Until now.
Evenings at my house are pretty predictable. We have dinner, and then my husband and I retire to watch some TV and put the baby to bed while our two big kids head to the basement for some screen time of their own. This system works really well for us… up to the point when it's time for the big kids to stop watching TV and come to bed.
My husband falls sleep early since he works an early morning shift, and the baby generally falls asleep on top of me, so I'm in no position to get out of bed and retrieve the other kids. And even if I can slip away from the baby, I am met with whining and complaining and requests for five more minutes when I tell the kids it’s time to turn the TV off. For quite some time, this was a very stressful part of my day.
On a whim, I decided to put the IDevices Smart Switch I had sitting around to use in a new way.
I plugged our basement entertainment system into the smart plug and used the IDevices app to schedule the TV to power on and off at my preferred times. Getting to the plug's manual power button requires the entertainment center to be moved, so the kids can't just sneak down and push a button to override my settings.
The kids now know that the TV won't have any power until 4 o'clock, so there's no point in even asking to watch TV before then. I can’t express the amount of drama this immediately eliminated for our family. But it was the abrupt powering down that I thought would cause mayhem for us. After all, I know I’d be irritated if I was in the middle of a show — or worse, a game — and the TV just shut down with no warning.
But it turns out that they can be watching TV and have it shut off in the middle of an episode or level and they don't really mind. They just pick up the basement like they are supposed to (otherwise, the robotic vacuum that runs overnight will eat their toys!), come upstairs, and get some snuggles before bed. I'm no longer the evil, nagging fun-stealer now that I can let the plug take the blame. Our bedtime routine is now generally drama free.
The addition of one little smart plug, and a problem that has plagued me for nearly 10 years is a thing of the past.
Just about any smart plug will allow you the very basic capabilities it took for me to set up this arrangement. The IDevices Switch is the best smart plug according our testing, and you can get it for less than $30, but you can accomplish the same thing with the $13 Geeni Spot.