Michelle Obama Shares Her Strict Screentime Rules for Her Kids

Michelle ObamaLiving in the White House has to be the coolest childhood ever, right? You've got the Secret Service at your beck and call, and if you are Sasha and Malia Obama, your dad is the PRESIDENT of the United States! But don't let the title deceive you. Barack and Michelle Obama are still parents first.

And that means laying down rules for their kids that might surprise you. If you think the kids in the White House have access to all the TV and computers they want, you have another thing coming. As Mrs. O. told The Stir's own Tracy Odell (who got to take her adorable son to the White House for take your child to work day ... seriously, you have to check out his grin!), they run a tight ship when it comes to technology.

So how serious is it chez Obama? Here's what the First Lady had to say:

We have rules about it. The girls have limited television and screen time -- none during the week unless it’s school-related, because now kids are doing these -- they video chat study groups. And when they’re doing that, I always go in their room to make sure they’re actually talking about school ... Kids, instead of how we used to call on the phone and talk about homework, they get on the computer now and chat. So I don’t want to interfere with that, so I monitor with the teacher to make sure that the kids who were studying together are actually -- that then they’re studying in a way that’s helpful.

Sounds pretty in line with what most of us do in our average, everyday homes, right? It gets better. Just like my kid, Sasha and Malia Obama get no TV time during the week. Zero. Bupkus.

More from The Stir: Michelle Obama's Tips for Getting Kids to Eat Healthy Food

But that decision didn't come easily. There was a bit of, well, let's call it trial and error with the Obama girls (confession: same thing happened at my house!):

I tried this thing where they can earn an hour during the week if they got everything done. But what was happening is that they’d claim their hour on Monday. And I’m like, why are you watching TV on Monday? Well, I was like, you’re supposed to earn that hour. So I just said forget that. So the sort of incentive model didn’t work. And then they get two hours Friday, three Saturday, two Sunday.

And just in case you're wondering, there is no free-for-all with the TV on the weekends either. Technology isn't a given in the White House, says Mrs. Obama. It's all about behavior:

If something hasn’t gotten done, all that is gone. I mean, as I tell my kids, the computer and the TV mean nothing to us. So that’s the first thing that goes, is you just don’t need any of that. So this -- they know that this is a privilege that we don’t value deeply. So it will be taken away very quickly and happily. Give us an excuse to take it away. And it will be taken away. At the drop of a hat -- you look funny, you’re unhappy, you’re whining a little bit too much. That’s the first thing that goes. Right, don’t roll your eyes.

But don't feel too bad for the girls! When there's a sleepover, the rules go out the window ... there's still fun to be had when you're a kid in the White House!

What are the screen rules in your house? Are they any different from the Obamas'?


Image via United States Government Work/Flickr

books & media, barack obama, michelle obama, technology


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the4m... the4mutts

Very different. Computer time is non-existant, because we have no computer. Video games are for the weekend only.

Tv however, is on from 8am till I go to bed. Whether anyone is watching or not.

My kids get bored sitting in front of the tv. They self regulate a lot, and leave the room to play. But I can't stand to not have the background noise. So I leave it on. They play, watch a show, play, watch 5 minutes of a stupid show, and play some more.

tinyp... tinypossum

Ours are similar to the Obamas, but my kids are much younger and so don't have the same amount of homework and other responsibilities. My oldest is in K, so he has a small amount of homework daily. That has to be done before any TV time. When the weather is nice, they are encouraged to play outside rather than sit in front of the tube. They also have to help with dinner prep and take care of their things (shoes, backpacks, toys, bath) before they can have half an hour of TV before bed. We find it helps calm them down and get them ready to go to sleep. Otherwise, they are running around like crazy and it's harder to get them into bed. When they are older and have more responsibilities, I can see us being very much like the Obama's in our screen time rules. 

Desti... DestinyHLewis

My 3 are allowed about an hour after school to wind down and rest with TV before homework. After homework is done they spend about 90% of their free time in our pool even in the winter, so I don't have to worry much about it right now, but they are still young so I guess we'll see. ;-)

Cassandra Huber

Well, we have TV's but decided not to have cable since we are not big TV watchers. So my son gets to watch an educatioal or children's dvd once a day and that is it. We are teaching him to play like a normal child. He has a play room, stocked with books, games, toys, crafts, sports equipment, plus we live close to a park so that is where he will go on nice days or play out in the yard.

Cassandra Huber

Also, for video games, we like the old school video game systems, so if he wants to play games he has 3 choices: sega, super nintendo, and N64 with a limited choice of games.

Bridgette Douglas

My kids are allowed games on weekends, we don't have cable. We have netflix and hulu, and try to make learning fun. Thinking about truvia during the week for fun. They can play with Lego's and blocks for fun. Always thinking of something to inspire imagination!

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