I couldn’t escape the feeling that this screen-dependent way of life felt as natural as a a group of dogs smoking cigars while playing poker.
I always considered my children and myself as having a mild-to-moderate screen addiction. Partially against my will, it had become a part of their routine to grab for their tablets the moment they walked in the door.
Every time I saw their zoned out little faces, glowing from the light of their devices, I just kept thinking of all the good screen-less memories I had as a kid growing up.
My daughter would panic if I turned off her tablet – after she spent an hour watching weird youtube videos of grown men playing playing with kid’s toys.
Was I depriving my kids of those types of deep friendships and imaginative games that are only born from moments of boredom?
I want my kids to LEARN to be bored, LEARN to sit at a restaurant, LEARN to use their imagination like I did when I was a kid.
When I started to do the research, I was less than shocked when my scrreen-time suspicions were confirmed;
- Effect on sleep: Screen viewing, specifically on portable devices, has a negative effect on the amount of sleep children of all ages get, but more so in children under the age of ten.
- Effect on activity level: In some studies, obesity has been linked to excessive TV watching as a child.
- Effects on cognition: Studies suggest that kids who spend more than 2 hours per day looking at a screen score lower on thinking and language tests.
Cleveland Clinic Pediatrician, Dr. Skyler Kalady, explains that screen time has such a strong effect on children because children need to explore their environments and develop motor skills. This movement and curious behavior isn’t happening if they are spending all of their time looking at an electronic device.
Screen Detox in Action
In this modern world, you can’t fully eliminate technology, and I didn’t want to. I just wanted my children to break free from their addiction and learn to live without screens.
My screen detox plan was simple:
- It would start immediately
- It would last one week
- No screens outside of school, and light television in the evenings
After minimal discussion, my husband and I reluctantly agreed to detox from technology using a cold-turkey method. We hid all of my children’s’ tablets, and watched them emerge into the bright and scary world.
When we did this, 5 of the craziest things happened immediately. This public service announcement is to warn you of the “dangers” you may face if you detox from screens.
1) Code Green!
Your children will most likely go outside more if you reduce their screen time. The outdoors are packed with countless hazards.
First, your child will probably run around a lot more. When children run, they are at risk of falling and scraping their knees. Their little throats may start to hurt from yelling and laughing outside.
Your children may even be exposed to more “fresh air”. Yikes, is that stuff safe?
2) Dirt Alert
If you absolutely hate giving your children baths, avoid taking away their screen time! They will- I repeat WILL- get dirtier if they are playing – compared to sitting on the couch.
If you value clean floors over your children’s new experiences, you want to make sure to avoid reducing screen time. Fun experiences require your children to get a little dirty, sweaty, or sticky sometimes.
There is even a chance that you will have to see a worm!
3) Friends = Double Trouble
With less screen time, there is a good chance that your children will socialize more with other kids and adults. If this occurs, you may have more dirty feet running through your house. Or you may need to buy more juice boxes to hand out to your new, little guests.
Your child will practice their interaction skills, and they won’t even know it. They may even make some life long friends while they are at it.
If you can’t bare the thought of parting with your extra juice boxes, then this lifestyle is not for you.
4) Look out for the Earlier Bedtime!
Do you enjoy your children calling for ‘one more glass of water’ at 10 pm? If you do, you want to avoid hiding their tablets.
When your children are busy, mentally or physically, they will tire earlier. When we stopped relying on tablets through out the day, our kids were forced to actually play more. Nothing wears a kid out more than real, actual play time.
If the thought of having a kid-free hour at the end of the night to watch HGTV makes your skin crawl, then pretend like you never read this.
5) Imagination? Appalling!
A magical thing will happen when your kids are “bored”. They will be forced to use their imagination to play.
When I was a kid, my mom would tell my siblings and I to “go play!” and we would gather sticks, build forts, play imagination for hours. We didn’t have fancy or expensive toys. We literally played with sticks, and we loved it.
To become functioning adults, kids needs to learn how to experience the feeling of ‘boredom’ and learn to engage and entertain themselves. I think this is the most important ‘side effect’ of screen time reduction that there is!
You Have Been Warned!
Obviously, when you take away the tablets there will be more messes, more children running around, and more yelling. However, I feel that this raises happier and healthier children. Children who learn to interact, use their imagination, and deal with boredom.
Did we completely eliminate the tablets? No. However, when we ‘detoxed’ from the tablets my children learned to live life without them. My daughter instantly grabs for a coloring book and crayons when she is bored, and my two sons get out their lego’s.
My husband and I had hesitations and doubts about our ability to go through with a screen-time detox; however, it was much easier than we thought.
Our three children were instantly less irritable, slept better, and laughed more.
After this detox, we did this 7-Step Method to Limit Screen Time in our Home.
We started to spend quality time together. We played outdoor sports as a family, went on hikes, and had dance parties in our kitchen. For our family, all of the ‘scary dangers’ proved to be worth the risk.
If you enjoyed this post, check out some of my recent posts:
- How to Teach Spirituality to Kids of All Ages
- How to Deal with Intrusive Thoughts as a Mom
- Resting is NOT an Act of Laziness, It’s Actually Productive
- 6 Ways to Raise a Critical Thinker and Why it’s the Parent’s Job
- 5 Reasons Why You Failed at Gentle Parenting
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