Last year, my family went screen free for the entire month of February. We didn't watch any TV, play any computer games or use any gaming devices. The experiment was such a huge success we decided to repeat it again this year.
Yesterday was day one. And, honestly, it was a piece of cake. The kids fell right back into a routine of playing after school without the TV. Granted, Wednesday is typically our busy day so we weren't home for a good part of it. We had a visit to a preschool for my just turned four-year-old son, banking, grocery shopping, friends and babysitting kids after school, a 5:00 pick-up from the last wrestling practice, drum lessons, a Cub Scout committee meeting for me and a Boy Scout meeting for my oldest son. Whew! No wonder screen free was easy!
Someone asked me two great questions about our family's screen free month. Why do we do it? Why do we introduce TV and games back into our lives afterwards?
Why do we go screen free for a month?
TV and computer games are a source of fighting for my boys. They fight over what to watch, who gets to play which game, how long each turn is and a million other things. As a matter of fact, I'd say about 80% of the arguing amongst the boys is screen related. How sad is that?
Screen time slowly becomes the go-to habit. We spend time in front of a screen to the exclusion of other activities. It's too easy to sit down and zone in front of the TV. We still read, play outside and play with toys and games, but I feel like they need more of that and less screen. The amount of screen time seems to snowball, especially in the winter months.
Bedtime creeps up later on nights we watch TV. We typically don't watch TV on school nights, but there are occasional exceptions, like ABC's Wednesday night comedies. Somehow, these have become a habit. I don't necessarily think it's a bad thing to have weekly shows we watch together as a family, but for my two youngest kids, it's obvious by the tears and tantrums on Thursday and Friday when they've stayed up later than usual on Wednesday.
Getting rid of screen time for an extended period of time resets their growing minds. They relax more. They start thinking in ways they wouldn't have otherwise. They spend more time on creative endeavors. They help more readily with chores.
Last year, I remember less fighting and an over all harmonious feeling by the end of the month.
We pick the month of February because it's the shortest month and seems like the easiest to get through!
Why do we re-introduce TV and computer games?
I think some TV and gaming is OK. I really do. I enjoy unwinding with a favorite show. Gaming is a social activity for kids, especially boys. They invite friends over to game. They talk about games at school.
Games and TV can be educational. For instance, we love the show Nature on PBS.
Sick days and days with miserable weather are great days to curl up on the couch and watch a movie.
Last year, TV and games came back into our home slowly. When we had electronics on, we got into the habit of turning them off at dinner time and leaving them off until the next day. Quiet evenings make for easier bedtimes. With the Wednesday night exception, TV never came back on school nights.
My oldest son (age 12) and my husband enjoy gaming together. It's one of the activities they share as a father and son. This is important time. Gaming and computers is a language they speak together. I'm more into playing board games like Chess and Scrabble, but my husband will play all the same computer games my son loves. It's a way for them to connect, especially as our son moves into his teen years.
If we can do it, anyone can. It's truly refreshing to take a month off from electronics. The surprising thing is, the kids think so, too.