When Josh and I declared May “Screen Free Month”, I admit I also braced myself.
We had gotten into some really bad patterns with kid screen time, namely allowing regular weeknight TV watching as default and loooooooong stretches of weekend iPad/video game time. It was actually pretty scary to see how G at age 5 could be captivated and watch iPad shows/play iPad games for seemingly unlimited periods of time. In fact, 0/3 kids seemed to have a limit for how much they wanted to sit there on the iPad. They essentially only stopped when they had to.
Are those forms of media all terrible? No.
Were they crowding out other things AND associated in our family with more irritability/lability/etc in the kids’ moods? Yes. Yes, they were. In late April, Josh and had a talk — we had recognized the extent of our family’s issues and decreed May Screen Free Month. We even started a day early.
It’s May 23. And it has gone FAST! And also quite well, I think. Things changed primarily for the better, and though there have been a few more messes and things, I did not really feel the enormous parenting burden that I admittedly feared. My kids used to be at an age where I had to watch them continuously, and a screen provided some respite from that.
Now they do not need that level of monitoring, so I have not really felt moved to provide it. And it has been . . . fine!!!!
They have been reading more.
Cameron especially has been playing outside more.
A organized her room with me.
G has been doing more pretend play.
They have gotten out games that were being previously ignored.
A helped me cook dinner one night (I would post the pic but I can’t tell if she would want me to!)
They have been BORED and figured out things to do.
They absolutely have complained. But they have not been miserable. And neither have I!! They even let me nap on my birthday (G played with legos in her room; A sort of watched her; C read a graphic novel).
We did allow them to have screens with our nanny when we went away for 2 nights, and we have let them watch movies some weekend nights. Josh also has put sports TV on occasion (and they can of course watch with him if he has the TV on). But it has been a different lifestyle and overall, it has been . . . nicer.
Their moods seem a bit better. They seem to have more interests. And while every moment is not easy from a behavioral perspective, I have noticed a positive shift.
So . . . screen free forever?
No. Here are my reasons:
- Social. Annabel in particular has friend-group-chats and I feel that having her entirely excluded from these could be a problem. I’m sure C will have more of these going forward.
- Also social: C enjoys playing video games with friends from his class. I don’t want to hinder those relationships.
- Gaming: C really enjoys it, and A/G have some more ‘creation’ type games that they like (I did not encourage this gender-normative behavior — at least not consciously — but this is what I have observed). I think in controlled doses it is a reasonable activity for him.
- Useful things online: Even I admit there are some useful things online! Coding tutorials. Crafting videos. Annabel wants to try learning Portuguese. Etc.
- Parenting: Sometimes I really do like having that break time. And in moderation I think that’s reasonable, too.
With that in mind, we will be crafting a set of rules for the summer and enforcing them. If the kids become too whiny/protest-y about the rules, we will just go back to screen free. They know we are fully capable of enforcing that so I think it will work out.
Josh and I haven’t fully decided, but probably will allow for a small number of during-week hours (maybe something like Tues night friend chats + Fri night movies) + limited weekend hours (maybe something like 2p-4p on one weekend day + TV or movies Saturday nights). I want to let them have some screen-related fun, but I don’t want it to dominate everyone’s leisure time.
Some might also be curious as to whether Josh and I went “screen free” as well. The answer is . . . no. However, I continue to carefully monitor my screen time (on the phone) and chose analogue activities such as reading books while the kids were awake. Josh and I still enjoyed Ted Lasso at night sometimes because thankfully I feel we’ve learned to effectively moderate screen time, especially TV shows. They don’t have that capability yet . . .
Questions? Thoughts? Going to try it out? You can always start with a shorter period of time, but a month seemed like enough time for them to adjust + settle in.