Parenting is so hard in this era of portable internet devices. Despite the fact that there are lots of good tools for monitoring and limiting my teens on their phones, iPads, iPods, and computers, I find myself more and more just plain disgusted with the constant blue light shining on everyone’s faces, the constant sucking away of time. And it’s not just the teens! My husband and I both find ourselves dedicating way more of our day to those little pocket screens than we care to admit, and the little’s are constantly asking for another movie, another game, and “when will I be old enough to get my own screen?” We had forgotten how to be bored, how to not be entertained, how to entertain ourselves. I often found myself saying, “Do something creative! Build, explore, create! You don’t need to be on a screen all the time!”
Well, it just had to stop. I couldn’t take it anymore. Even with rules and schedules (no screens during school hours or after 10pm, for example) I still felt like we were drifting away from each other with every login. I had to do something drastic.
And so began “Screen Free Week”. For the first seven days of every month, we shut it all down. We literally unplug the tv, the computers, the chargers, the modem, the speakers, the Nintendo, EVERYTHING, and we spend time together without our screens to distract us from real life.
The transition was hard. The first screen free week was in January, and I’ll admit it, it was hard for me. I hadn’t realized how often I pick up my phone until I had to resist every impulse to do so. It’s a lot! But seven days is just long enough to get over the withdrawals and then enjoy a few days appreciating all the free time one has when there is no screen to waste it on! I want to tell you how awesome this little time-out has been for us in three main points.
- Family time. Without screens, we are forced to talk to each other, play with each other, and spend good, quality time together. The evenings are my favorite. Someone will pull out a board game, others might read outloud, sometimes we just talk. The first seven nights of every month are when we make some super wonderful memories. The Boy recently remarked that, even though he hates Screen Free Week, he knows that it is good for him and that someday he will thank me for it! He noticed that it helped him to focus on being a part of the family and to not miss out on the little’s growing up.
- And not only are we spending more time together, but everyone is more pleasant. There is a marked lessening of temper-flaring and snarkiness among the teens when they aren’t plugged into youtube or instagram. It’s pretty incredible. I find that even for myself, when I’m not all worked up about political posts or terrible news stories, I can be a really pleasant person to be around! HA!
- When you unplug all of the entertainment devices in your house for one quarter of the month, your electric bill will drop. It’s pretty remarkable! I had no idea that such a large part of our electric use was the tv, the computer, the video games, and charging all the phones and tablets. Our bill dropped by 22%!
Oh, and let’s not forget all of the knitting that gets done when there is no phone in my hand! Which I can’t show you yet because it’s for gift. Some pretty wonderful people in my life are expecting baby girls so the knitting has been in full swing here!
Sometimes I fear the addiction of social media and the influence of instagram in my teens and on me. What a challenging thing for parents of this day and age. Technology definitely has it’s pros and cons! We have lots of things in place to try to teach our kids how to function in this world that we live in – I am so glad that we found a way to practice living without our screens for short spurts of time.
Do you have concerns about your kids and technology today? What steps have you taken to protect them from it and to train them to use it wisely?