It’s inevitable. You’re inside a lot – watching movies, playing video games, on iPads, computers and more. You may also be staring at a screen for work and your kids may be using one at school. How do you break the cycle of constant screen time? Like any tough habits to kick, a challenge is just the thing you need to get you out of your rut.
We have never been a big TV family, but it was definitely there for me when my kids were very young and I needed a little downtime. The problem was that my children began to expect it every day and felt like they needed it to relax. And I understood the feeling – when you are too tired to read or do artwork and you just want to stare listlessly at a screen. I didn’t like the control the screen had over their minds, though, and when our new school put forth a challenge to families to go screen-free for a week, it was the perfect timing for us. My daughter was seven at the time, my son was four, and they were mostly watching a children’s show or two while I prepared dinner.
My kids and hubby seemed excited for the challenge, while I masked my trepidation with enthusiasm. I wanted to try, but how would I make it through the dreaded late day sans my TV crutch? While we couldn’t cut out our screen usage entirely due to work, my husband and I agreed to refrain from using our screens for pleasure that week.
The challenge began full of promise and good humour. The kids came up with great activities to do in the time when I prepared dinner and we waited for Dad to get home. There was colouring and drawing, building and crafting. In the middle of the week, some whining was heard between activities, and when they grew tired or hungry, but by end of week, I could see a new rhythm developing. They were playing so creatively together that they completely forgot about the television and it warmed my heart.
The week went so well that my husband and I declared our house screen-free for the children every weekday. Limited screen time is now allowed on the weekend, and it’s usually in the form of a movie or computer game. Now, at ten and seven years old, my children never watch television shows (rare exceptions include the Olympics and special occasions) and they keep busy making bracelets, felting with wool, knitting, drawing, building with Lego, playing chess and having fun outdoors.
Tips to get you started:
- Follow Screen-Free Week and Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood on Facebook for upcoming challenges and tips on raising screen-free kids.
- Cover your television with a tablecloth or sarong and keep it turned off for a full week.
- Play outside, do arts and crafts, create in the kitchen, visit the library, do a puzzle, plant an indoor herb garden, write to relatives and look through family photo albums.
- Be aware of your own screen time and try to limit it when you are with your children.
By Kristen Wint