Does anyone else feel like life has been one big screen fest since March and Corona? I have been giving myself grace about it, throwing around all the placating comments in my mind saying, “this is a strange time” and “it has been hard for everyone” and “what else is there to do after all this time” and “I have mostly teenagers so it’s harder” but they just weren’t sitting right with me any longer.
Our normally moderate screen home had become obsessed with them. I had lost my will to regulate screens ALL THE TIME since so little was happening and everyone was home so much, so I ignored and rationalized it. Until I just couldn’t anymore. My 8 year old was only looking forward to screens. He was missing out on all the goodness of summer as a kid. He and his friends had lost the ability to come up with something fun to do and honestly, didn’t even try. My teens were also in the same rut (some more than others) and we just needed a breather, a refresh, a perspective shift.
I realized that complaining about it and hating my situation was not a viable way to live. I have the power to change things if I really want to, and so, we decided, last Sunday to just go cold turkey and be screen free for the week, and it has been awesome. Honestly, I cannot say enough good things about it.
This is what I have seen that has been missing for quite awhile:
- More physical activity. Without a screen to numb them in the mornings, they get out before it gets too hot and shoot hoops, go on runs, play soccer, and ride bikes. This also happens later in the day.
- More creative play happening. My little guy’s friends, on their own, came up with a cooking competition and did it all on their own. It was awesome. My 13 year old rode his bike to the store to get supplies for an experiment and created a water balloon launcher. Lots of moments like this with siblings and even on an individual basis.
- My older kids are making plans. Because they know their days can’t be filled with screens, they have been busy making sure they have plenty going on each day and think about the next day. They are also happier to join in family activities because it is better than sitting around with nothing to do.
- Work is getting done faster and better without the complaints. It used to be so hard to pull them away from screens to get them to do anything, but without screens they just get their stuff done.
- Lots more reading is happening, especially in the morning, at night, and during “bored” time. I love seeing my boys with books.
- We are all happier. My husband and I are not as frustrated with everyone; we are spending more time together; and there is way less contention in the home. I have even noticed attitude shifts overall in my boys and WAY less fighting.
- Everyone slept much better. No one was staying up to watch “one more show” and they were tired every night because they had been so active.
- Just because I have to work from home does not mean that my kids only option is to increase their screen time. They are fully capable of doing a million other things, and I can still get work done.
- So many of my frustrations with my mothering, my kids, and our family as a whole disappeared when screens did. It was amazing.
Here are a few tips on how we made it work:
- I prepared myself. Going screen free is a lot more work on the front end as a mom, but I decided it was worth it. I cut back on my own work hours or saved them for nighttime. I planned a lot of activities and re-engaged in the daily life of motherhood. I was in the car a lot more than usual and out and about quite a bit. I participated in the fun. I was grateful for the messes that were being made and played games at night even when I was already tired. It was a lot of work but the best kind of work. The trade off was well worth it.
- We made plans and had things to look forward to. I made sure there were things going each day, and my kids were great at making sure their days had lots of good things going on so they weren’t just wishing for screen time.
- I grabbed a couple cool, different things for them to get excited about. We ordered a few Tinker Crate kits and loved them. They built the lantern/flashlight, the safe deposit box, and the headphones. They loved having something to look forward to that was different, and I love that Tinker Crate is advanced enough for teen boys to engage in it. If you are looking to spice things up this summer or plan on going screen free for a bit, they are awesome. Get $10 off your order HERE.
- I was okay with some complaining and a few exclamations of “boredom.” But, overall, I was surprised at how little that happened.
- We were practical about it so there wasn’t any sneaking. I unplugged the TVs and Xboxes so there was no way to access them. We added extra screen time regulations to phones and turned off the wifi to the computer. It was easier than I thought as long as we had things physically in place.
- We talked a lot about how they felt and the changes they saw in themselves and our family as they were screen free. They recognized lots of great things when it came to creativity, attitude, and activity. They are all 100% sure that they don’t want to go back to the way they were. We will be making concrete plans this Sunday.
Exceptions to the rules:
- My oldest (17) is away camping out of cell service, so he has been doing screen free by default. The older they get, the harder it can be, but hopefully he has seen the same benefits we have!
- My second son (15) did keep his phone, but he dialed screen time way back. He doesn’t have social media but does have a couple games he plays so he cut those out. He is also doing 2 summer courses, so he still did use his computer for school but no video games. He did watch a little TV a couple of times while doing his workouts.
- My third son (13) doesn’t have a phone, which makes things much easier. Once or twice, in the car, I let him play about 10 minutes on my phone while he waited for me to run in to the store or waited for a soccer game to start.
- We didn’t regulate them having screens at friends’ houses, but I did let my 8 year old’s friends parents know so he didn’t just camp out at their houses and watch TV since he couldn’t do it here. He has loved it the most and has had the best time with his friends this week!
- On Tuesday night, our two youngest watched a little TV. My husband and I both had deadlines and they had been awesome and highly engaged for 3 days. I didn’t beat myself up about any of these slip ups. I felt like we did amazing and I let myself be proud of that.
- The adults were not screen free, but we used our phones and computers much less. It was awesome!
I wish we could do this forever, but it probably won’t happen. However, doing it for a week has honestly been a dream…maybe my favorite week of the summer. It has helped me, as a mom, get creative and motivated again and realize that even with older kids, I have a lot of control over what happens in my home if I am willing to try. It has also helped give us a chance to reset and rethink how we are using technology.
For now, we would love to keep everything off and unplugged until about 3 or 4pm each day, and then be much more intentional and proactive about how we use our screen time. We are going to watch the time more closely, look for experiences and opportunities away from screens and truly enjoy when we have a chance to sit and wind down after an exciting day. We have noticed when we miss having them and what they are actually good for.
I would highly recommend giving it a try. If you can’t do it for a week, do it for one day each week or even a couple days or even just a weekend. I think you will be surprised by how good it is for everyone!