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The Box Office: A Method for Limiting Children's Screen Time

Updated on June 1, 2012

The general consensus amongst “experts” is that kids should spend less time in front of screens and more time in other pursuits. Many moms (the real experts) agree, but find monitoring screen time to be tedious. Communicating your expectations to your children and making them take some measure of responsibility for their actions can make the task easier, and eliminate tiring negotiations that can wear down your resolve.

Our family has handled screen time by using a ticket system. You can tailor this method to your own lifestyle, values, and expectations.

Creating the Tickets

On a publishing program on your computer, create a set of tickets for each child. The easiest way to do this is to use a business card or label template. Our tickets say the following:

This Ticket Good For


including television, computer, and any type of video games.

May redeem no more than 4 tickets per day and 10 per week.

Excludes homework, family movie/game nights and visits to Grandma’s.

Management reserves the right to declare “screen-free” days.

Tickets may be seized/withheld if deemed necessary for disciplinary purposes.

Print out one set of tickets for each child. You may color code them, as we did, or simply write each child’s name on the back of his/her allotted tickets. The tickets are then cut out and laminated using a machine or self-adhesive laminating sheets. You may wish to give each child a special pouch or envelope to hold their tickets.

Making the Box Office

Recycle an old box, such as a shoe box, cereal box, or dishwasher detergent box for this purpose. Cut the box to the desired size, and cover it with decorative paper. Label the box “Box Office”. Ours is laminated with the same self-adhesive sheets we used on the tickets. Put the box near the television or somewhere easily accessible to the children.

Enforcing the Method

First of all, it should be universally understood in your household that having the television on is not the default setting for your family life. Kids should know that they cannot turn on a screen without thinking and evaluating how they want to spend their screen time, and of course you should make it clear what kind of shows, video games, and websites are always off-limits. When a child wants to redeem a ticket or tickets, they let you know and turn the tickets in to the “Box Office”. You may set a timer yourself, teach them how to set a timer, or even give them their own timer to keep with their tickets. The tickets may be withheld for discipline, or you may even create a way for them to earn the tickets they want, up to a limit. If your child proves themselves untrustworthy by playing over their time limit or sneaking screen time, make sure to stand your ground by restricting their tickets and even removing their screen access. Tickets may be re-issued at the beginning of each week or at a time determined most suitable by you.

Teaching children to use discernment in the time they spend exposed to screens is an important skill that will help them become productive adults. And breaking the habit of constantly staring at a screen will be healthy for your whole family.


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    • adawnmorrison profile image

      adawnmorrison 5 years ago from The Midwest

      Thank you for your kind comments. Some people give me the "eye-roll" because they think I'm too strict. Really, I'm not...but my kids know what my expectations are and we don't waste a lot of time arguing about it.

    • Angela Brummer profile image

      Angela Brummer 5 years ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

      What a clever way to express you care about your childrens activites!

    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      I do like the idea of tickets for screen time. We strictly limit screen time during the week and sometimes it gets out of hand on the weekends. I am always saddened to see a child in front of the TV on a lovely day. I will use your system. Thanks so much!

    • adawnmorrison profile image

      adawnmorrison 5 years ago from The Midwest

      We had a few screen-free summers when the kids were smaller, with no complaints, believe it or not. Once we got a video game system, 2 Christmases ago, I knew we had to curb the madness. Withholding tickets is usually my first course of action in discipline. Glad you liked the Hub!

    • Zebrahut profile image

      Zebrahut 5 years ago from UK

      I really like this approach - thanks for a great hub. We had a "winter of disconnect" two Christmases ago, as the children were being rude an naughty. Within 2 days we had our children 'back'! Your method isn't so extreme and is a fun way to teach children good habits - I'm going to give the system a try - Many thanks