We are approaching year three of the Cece Dollar economy. For those who don’t remember, Louise and I implemented Cece Dollar system as a form of behavioral modification two summers ago, and it springs from a very simple idea: Various behaviors have their worth, positive and negative. Do something good and earn Cece dollars to pay for fun things. Do something bad, and the fun things become more expensive. Basically, this is nothing more than a point system, but with currency that has her picture on it.
Though the system lists several fun activities, the list these days primarily applies to screen time. Thanks to “Animal Jam,” it’s become a very big deal. I know that for most ten-year-olds, computer games become pretty much central to their lives, and I understand the appeal. Animal Jam in particular becomes pretty addictive not only because the player can build their own community like Minecraft (which she also plays), but once her friends sign on, she lives in a parent-free world of fuzzy animal avatars.
The Cece Dollar system regulates this activity most effectively if — and this is a big if — Louise sticks to the program. Cecelia has her own account on the family computer, but I have it set so that she can only stay on for an hour a day, and only between certain times. According to the Cece Dollar system, screen time costs a certain amount for the first hour, but then it doubles for every hour after. In theory, she could stay on all day providing she had enough money.
I have to admit, it drives me nuts to see her on the computer for so long. I have to fight the urge to pull her away and lecture her on the dangers of all that screen time. She had a snow day yesterday, and I wanted to toss her outside to go play. I did tell her, when I was ten and we had a snow day, I bolted out of the house right after breakfast, and I didn’t come back until the street lights turned on. Even then, I’d wait to hear my mother calling my name.
“That was in olden times,” she replies. “That’s just weird.”
I fear the slothful, lazy kid. I see it all around me, and I don’t want that to happen to Cecelia. She’s currently in very good health, and she’s participating in an after school running program, but I want her to develop good overall habits. Her metabolism will eventually slow down, and my family does have a history of obesity.
As of today, an hour of screen time costs six Cece dollars. She had a bad week, and this morning, we caught her playing Animal Jam at 6 A.M. on Louise’s computer account, which does not have a timer attached.
All in all, I believe the Cece Dollar System is working near perfectly, but as I said, it requires commitment from both parents. If you’d like to play along with your kid, let me know. So far, we “sold” the system to our dentist, but he has twins, and I told him that I have no idea how to make it work with more than one kid.
Cecelia frequently asks when we’ll stop this, and I tell her if the prices stay at baseline for three months. She’s probably gone a week at baseline at any point during this experiment. Beyond that, I don’t know. I guess we’ll know when we know.