Why go screen free?

Screen freedom - why go screen free?

I recently mentioned that the fam has been screen-free from Sunday – Thursday since December last year. Since that post, I’ve received lots of messages asking me “how did you do it?” and “weren’t you scared?” and “whhhhhy?”, so I thought I’d tell you all a bit more about it in a couple of posts.

First, the why.

If it was just our two girls, we would never have seen the need to impose screen freedom. Both Cappers and Badoo seem to have natural boundaries when it comes to using the screens in their lives – television, computer, iPads, iPods. Left to their own devices (pun!), they have always preferred to get a game going together rather than sit staring at a light box. They like to watch shows on TV or ABC iview like A gURL’s Wurld (Aussie show, very repetitive), Life with Boys (canned laughter vom fest), Ben and Holly (what’s not to love?) and Operation Ouch (ouch!) or create projects on the computer (Cappers is writing a book about having fun with your teddy bear, if you can believe it), but they will rarely ask to turn on the TV or go on a screen.

Max, on the other hand, would like nothing more than to stare at a light box all day, every day. Screens are his first love and it is a deep and abiding love indeed. He loves to play computer games like Minecraft, Zoo Tycoon, Club Penguin (except our membership expired, sorry penguins) and apps like Terraria, Comics in the Classroom, Friendstrip and Snake Simulator (snakes are his current obsession). On TV he likes Slugterra (a love shared by his littlest sister who has slugs on her homework book), Pokemon (of course!), Blue Zoo (boring) and Regular Show (awful). He also creates projects on things that interest him using Powerpoint and watches Youtube videos about Minecraft, Pokemon and Smosh things that are completely age inappropriate even if they are rather funny.

So, we’ve always had to set screen boundaries for Max. Over time we’ve had to be more and more restrictive because otherwise he would just be on screens all the time. If he’s not on screens, he’s asking when he can go on screens or arguing about why he can’t go on screens.

Then came the waiting game.

I noticed towards the end of last year that when he wasn’t allowed on screens he was basically just filling in time until the next time he was allowed on screens. So he was on a screen or waiting or back on a screen. Sometimes the waiting was a whole night and a school day, but he was waiting nonetheless. By ‘waiting’ I mean that he was half-engaged with his life and half thinking about when he could next get back into his game.

This bothered me so much that I started moving the screen time further and further apart in the hope that he would stop waiting… that sort of worked, but not really. It turned out he was a lot more patient than I gave him credit for.

Then we tried using screen time as a reward for doing good in other areas of life, especially for physical or creative activity or outdoor time. This seemed to work for a while, but after a while Max became aggressive about how much computer time he was ‘owed’, he asked about screens all day every day and began going outside with the sole purpose of earning time inside on screens. It just never ended.

Added to that was the fact that morning television had crept up from being an early-morning weekend thing to an everyday thing. This was my own darn fault because I thought that rewarding the kids with some morning TV if they got completely ready for school would be a good thing. Instead, very soon they were all waking at the crack of dawn, getting ready so fast your head would spin and turning on their ‘reward’ at about 7am for a leisurely 2 hours of television before school.

Not only did I think this was way too much television, but I was also sick and tired of being greeted by the babble of children’s television instead of my loving children each morning.

Something had to give.

Clearly things were out of control and I identified my key frustrations as being:

  • the sound of morning television.
  • the sight of my creative, charming, energetic children staring lazily at… what exactly?
  • the kids watching television while eating.
  • the aggression that Max displayed after being on the computer.
  • being asked all the time by Max whether he could go on a screen.
  • my boy’s apparent inability to do anything other than screens.
  • feeling like screens were the best part of my children’s lives.
  • lacking family time together because everyone was glued to their own devices.
  • feeling like time together was secondary because everyone would rather be on a screen.

In addition, there was something I noticed about my own behaviour that I didn’t like one little bit: sometimes I was happiest when they were all on screens as the house was quiet and I could ‘get on with my stuff’. Even though the net affect was clearly detrimental, I recognised that screens made parenting in the moment ‘easier’.

Once I wrote down how I really felt about screens, I knew the time had come to do something about it.

We had been converts to “screen-free Sundays” (SFS) for a couple of years at this point and I realised that the thing I loved most about SFS was that nobody bugged me about screens for the whole day. They just weren’t an option, so no one thought to ask about them. I loved the freedom that SFS brought me on Sundays.

I also loved the togetherness of SFS. Because I knew that the kids would need some screen-free fun to make the day a good one, I tended to organise more structured activities for them. I put more effort into being together, being outside, doing different things, visiting new places and trying things we’ve never tried before. I was more available, more relaxed, more engaged. There was no doubt about it, I was a better parent on SFS.

This made me wonder whether I could manage to make screens a non-option for the better part of a week. Could I do it? Could we do it? Would we parents have to be screen-free too to make it work? Could I handle that? What would the kids say? What would they do? What would we do? All day? Every day?

I promise I’ll tell you all about the ‘how’ in my next Screen Freedom post!

Are you screen-free? Do you want to be?
What are your major reasons for being tempted to be a screen-free family?

Part 2: How to go screen free!

Click here for more screen freedom

Join me here:
Facebook Twitter Bloglovin | G+ 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Comments

  1. says

    Such a great post! Hubby and I are trying to be more screen free, so we do a few hours a day of no screens during the weekend and then an hour or so at night during the week.

    What I’m finding quite difficult is the morning – if the tv is on, there is usually a tragic story that starts the day and if the tv is off, I wonder if something has happened and I don’t know about it. I’m slowly learning to let the morning tv go… At least for the first hour when I get up :)

    Xx

    • Maxabella says

      It does take a while to really ‘switch off’, which is why I found a longer block of time is better than lots of shorter breaks (hence our move to Sunday – Thursday OFF)! x

  2. says

    Sounds amazing, good job on bringing this SFS into your life and more. I watch friends children and babies and their screen time and it really is alarming in some cases. Whatever happened to fresh air, climbing a tree and not coming inside in the afternoon until the street lights were on? Very proud of your actions and I hope many of your lovely readers will be inspired to do the same:) A x

    • Maxabella says

      Thanks Ashlea. It was never my intention to try to ‘wind back the clock to sunnier times’, but that does seem to be what happens when you take the screens away. I’m not anti-screen, far from it (I work on a screen!!), but I’m keen to show my kids that they can make their own entertainment, they don’t need to have entertainment thrust upon them! x

  3. says

    Love it, love it!! Totally GET it! Boys in particular become addicted to the screen. For nine years we didn’t even own a screen and I really believe our older children are far more creative than our younger ones..though after a three days of cold turkey it’s like their brain switches on and they can become creative again. When they have screen it’s like they are either on, or waiting to go on. So, so understand what you are experiencing!

    • Maxabella says

      Kazactly! It’s the ‘waiting’ that bothered me the most. And you are right, it doesn’t happen ‘overnight’. I’ll be covering the ‘how’ in my next post. x

  4. says

    Wow this was such a great article. I love screen time to be honest, and this is really making me reflect on the effect it is having on us as a family. I’m looking forward to hearing how it goes!!!

    • Maxabella says

      You won’t regret giving it a go, Courtney. It’s been three months at our place and I intend to keep the screens limited for as long as i possibly can. I’ll be covering the “how we did it” in post #2 and the “what happened next” in post #3! x

  5. says

    This will be us for sure. We have an almost three year old who already melts down over his restricted ipad time. Though whilst bf-ing a 2 week old I don’t think I can get rid of screen time altogether. Like you say, I really do enjoy the freedom it allows me. But I do think we need to re-evaluate. Especially after dinner as it turns into an all out bedtime war. Looking forward to the next post. Also how do YOU work as a blogger without screen time?!

    • Maxabella says

      All will be revealed, Bettina. In my next post I’v got some really good tips for attempting this with younger kids too, so hopefully that will help. But you are right – it can be an absolute godsend when the kids are little and you need some time. ESPECIALLY when BFing! So go with that… x

  6. says

    I can totally relate to you and how Max would live half his life in waiting, our boys were the same. Last year we banned all devices from Monday to Friday, they were not happy about it and were a little bit lost briefly, then they just accepted it and get on with other things, which is mostly outside imaginative play, the best kind of fun! x

    • Maxabella says

      It’s a lot easier to implement than most would think. The adaptability of kids is remarkable.

      I was just thinking of you last night, Mel. You popped into my head and I though “I haven’t visited Mel for so long!” and here you are. x

  7. says

    This issue scares me so much.
    It scares me because I really don’t want my son to be addicted to TV. I’ve seen kids whose lives revolve around TV and I hate it. I want him to be an outdoors, creative kid who doesn’t need an idiot box.
    BUT – no TV means so much more work for me. He’s SUCH an energetic child and his attention span is about four seconds so I will admit to putting him in front of the TV now and then so I can get stuff done, like cook his dinner or get some laundry done. And sometimes I’ll sit and watch some TV with him just for the few moments of stillness so I can recharge and keep going for the day.
    I know how lazy that sounds, and I hate that he’s started to ask for the TV (he’s only 20 months old) but he’s seriously a mental case and it’s getting worse.
    I’m definitely going to make much more of an effort to avoid the TV if I can. Wish me luck!

    • Maxabella says

      It’s A LOT harder to do when the kids are so young, Lauren. The TV can be a welcome part of a harried mumma day, I totally get that. I’m no expert, but I always made sure that the kids watched only one show in the morning and one in the afternoon – about 20 minutes each time. They were very welcome 20 minute sessions for me and for my children. But I did try not to go beyond those time frames. Instinct told me that 20 minutes was enough. I got into the habit of trying to involve the kids in my own activities – the cleaning, the cooking, etc. It was frustrating, but rewarding too. Anyway, long reply only to end up saying that we can’t beat ourselves up about screens. It’s the way of the world and a necessary part of our children’s lives!! x

  8. says

    love this post! well done. We have been television screen free for years. The children don’t watch any commercial tv or ABC kids since 2009 and it’s been wonderful. The boys watch football together and we have a few relaxed rules about ipods but generally they give themselves good boundaries and it makes DVD night that we occasionally have all the more special.

    • Maxabella says

      I knew about your screen freedom, Bren. I told you how because we grew up in the Territory in the seventies, we didn’t have any tele either, right? None whatsoever. I’ve always had a varied opinion on whether that was a good thing (loads of creative, outdoor time for us!) or a bad thing (no cultural / social references growing up!). x

  9. says

    Seriously need to do this myself although the only time I seen to get things done (namely work on my blog) seems to be when I give them screen time…it’s the turning them off which is the battle . Keep up the good work!

    • Maxabella says

      I work on my blog late at night when everyone is asleep and nobody knows I’m breaking the rules… but I put my blog into the ‘mummy’s work’ category, so as I work from home, it’s reasonable that I can work on it without guilt… x

  10. says

    Wow Bron, I don’t know how you managed it. I think my girls would go crazy if they went without TV for 5 whole days. Sometimes I use the TV as a distraction tool to stop them from annoying each other and let me get things ready for school/preschool. I know its not the best solution, but it works (some of the time) and gets them motivated to get ready as I can use the “I’m turning the TV off if you don’t…finish your breakfast, get your uniform on, brush your hair, etc etc” I think whatever works and causes the least amount of stress to us parents is a good thing :)

    • Maxabella says

      Totally agree. As I mention, the ‘tv as reward’ thing worked for us for a time, until it didn’t. Every family will be different and will need to set different boundaries, but I’m just really interested in putting my own experience out there to remind us all that we DO need the boundaries… x

  11. says

    Looking forward to hearing more about this Bron. We don’t have the TV plugged in to an aerial so screen time is restricted by this. It is harder with the teen who just wants to be on his laptop (we didn’t buy it so it’s an extra big bug bear for me), but the littlest prefers to play fortunately.

    • Maxabella says

      I’ve no experience whatsoever about the teen thing, but I’m researching all ages groups as I prepare to write about screen freedom. I’m so not anti-screen anyway, so I think by teendom you’re absolutely going to need to have screens in your life. It’s whether we can get some boundaries in place to ensure they are developing other areas of interest that will be the key. Stay tuned. x

  12. says

    Screen time is a HUGE argument starter in my house. The 15 year old LIVES for his & the 12 year old isn’t far behind. I am constantly trying new things to find a balance for them & me.
    I also know I’m guilty of using the TV as quiet time for my little ones too. Parenting solo four weeks at a time is really tough & most days it’s the only break I get. That sounds horrible doesn’t it? It’s true though. If sitting on the lounge watching The Wiggles will give me 10 minutes of stillness then I gotta take what I can.
    I do think I keep the TV on a lit of the tine as background noise too. I’m trying to break that habit but I slip up too much.

    • Maxabella says

      It’s such a tough, tough thing to do with both little kids and teens, Reannon. I think I am lucky to have done the whole thing in that sliver of a window where they are not too small and not too big. That said, I’ve researched the bejeezus out of this topic and I have a lot to share about both littles and largers in upcoming posts. I’ll tag you in when I hit toddler / teen territory!

      And MUSIC – ditch the TV and get the tunes happening as background company instead. x

  13. says

    Our kids don’t have a lot of screen time, but I have made a few changes in the last four or five months. I would use the TV in particular to distract the kids while I shovelled food into their mouths at dinner time. With the deliciously warm weather I’ve moved dinner outdoors where there is no screen. Everyone loves it. We also used to come downstairs after bath time and watch a little tv before bed. We now stay upstairs and there’s no TV. Nobody has even questioned it. They are loving the new norm. As for me, I try to reduce my amount of screen time over Friday nights, Saturdays and Sundays. That’s why I never do Weekend Rewind sorry. It’s my time with my husband.

    • Maxabella says

      You are most forgiven, Renee. Husbands take priority, always. You sound like you’ve got a really good handle on the screens at your place. It’s always about finding the balance that works best for your fam. x

  14. says

    Oh my goodness I know exactly what you mean by the waiting game! I could never put my finger on it before, but ‘half engaged’ in life is spot on!! That is my Josh to a T. I’ve also been trying really hard to put restrict screens in our house for pretty much the exact same reasons as you. The kids are really doing it tough with SFS – it takes them until about lunch time find something to do and actually start enjoying the day. I feel things are only going to get tougher as they get older – so we better hold on for the ride! xx

    • Maxabella says

      It definitely takes kids a while to adjust. I’m hoping to give parents loads and loads of ideas to help them get there as I explore this topic in depth. I am OBSESSED! x

  15. says

    I think it is super fantastic that you are restricting your children’s screen time AND that you are encouraging others to do it. Turning off the televisions and computers and encouraging kids to actually DO something is what parents should be doing. We haven’t had cable for two years, we just canceled our Netflix subscription and moved the television up to the attic. If we don’t miss it after a couple of months, we’ll recycle it. I only use the computer when my little babe is asleep so that she doesn’t think that the computer is an important part of my life. If you need it for work, that is one thing. But I think too many parents use it for entertainment, both for themselves and their kids, when they could be doing something together.

    • Maxabella says

      I agree that we are all using screens too much and I really admire how focused you are on avoiding them for the kids. I’m not anti-screen though. I find them a terrific source of information, entertainment, community and more. x

  16. Jess64 says

    How does it work for you and your husband. Are you both also screen free for those days? How does that work for your work?
    Very interesting ideas that I would love to do. But I would never get husband on side at the moment.

    • Maxabella says

      So, theoretically the man and I are also on board and can only use screens ‘for work’. As we know, that’s a very broad term (especially for me!). We occasional sneak a movie in at night after the kids are in bed. They know we do it, but have never asked about it. It doesn’t seem to bother them. On screen free days, I wouldn’t dream of using my computer, checking my email on my phone or turning on the TV while I’m with the kids. x

  17. says

    I am very keen to see how you go with this hun as I would love to follow suit especially because of the fact that I know my boys would feel like I have taken away their right arms. I will am waiting and watching oh Yoda xx

  18. says

    I need to implement more screen free time for myself. Absolutely. I really am addicted and rarely go more than a (waking) hour without a quick flick.
    I think a big chunk of it is being hugely lonely a lot of the time and craving interaction. My days off are no one else’s and finding time to hang out with people when I can actually relax and not think about work/study is rare.
    I need to find better leisure activities though because screen flicking is not relaxing or rewarding and really isn’t contributing to my overall sense of being.
    I look forward to the next instalment. I would love it if you talked a bit about how you manage to do screen free time when social media is so integral to blogging.

    • Maxabella says

      That makes me sad thinking of you being lonely, Nicole. But I totally get it. I definitely think that we all need to learn to like our own company a LOT more – that helps with pretty much everything. I am happy doing things on my own, without the need to share or be observed. I don’t think many people give much thought to their need to be ‘on show’ somehow, but it’s definitely a problem for many (not saying that is you, of course). My honest opinion is that we could all give more and share less, and by that I mean getting out into our ‘real’ communities and seeing what we can do to help others from feeling lonely. That was what my grandma taught me. She said, “if you’re feeling lonely, you need to get out and find a way to stop someone else from feeling lonely”. I’ve never forgotten it.
      x

  19. says

    Ever since you posted about this I have been discussing it with the family. For now we have reached a compromise of screens only after school work and life, but transitioning to no tech time Monday-Thursday. Following along now and hope I can manage this eek. We have definitely fallen down the tech hole since we went on summer break and I swore it would end when school,went back…

    • Maxabella says

      It’s a really, really hard vice to get out of. Hopefully I can help you get there. Be kind and start with SFS first for a couple of months and ease your way from there. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Screens are good too!! x

  20. Nic says

    Maxabella, you have described my experience exactly. I find it almost impossible to parent under the tyranny of the screen! (Melodramatic?) It really alarms me how little they engage with regular, normal life if they’re thinking about TV or Terraria, or Minecraft etc. I have a few friends who have a blanket rule of no screens at all during the week (apart from work or homework) that they say works perfectly- I need to try it, because as you say, if they’re allowed some time each day, they never stop thinking about it.

    Really looking forward to your next instalment on this.

    PS I agree, The Regular Show sucks, but I have to admit even I like Adventure Time, and my 8 y.o. likes Goat Simulator… strange little game… anyway, thanks :-)

  21. says

    Great post Bron, and thanks for your honesty about your own behaviour. I’m noticing this more and more with myself as well. The kids used to be able to watch one movie and two TV shows a week. It’s been creeping up and it’s got less to do with them and more to do with me taking the easy option.
    And when I say no, there’s a tantrum or a moment, and then we all play together. And I get my face out of my own screen too.
    Really looking forward to the next post on this. x

  22. says

    I’ve decided that the girls are going screen free for at least the next week, with the exception of our nightly viewing of Night Garden. Punky got quite hooked on TV when Zee was a newborn and I did what I had to do to stay sane with 2 under 2! I don’t regret it, because without it I don’t know how I would have managed some days. But now that she is getting older, and Zee is starting to follow her lead, I’ve decided it has to stop. I know how much better she is when she has something constructive to do and stays away from the TV and iPad during the day so I’ve been collecting lots of art supplies from the $2 shops so I have plenty of activities at the ready for her.

    Today is day 2 of no TV and I can see she is a little antsy at not being allowed to watch Sophia the First, Frozen or The Little Mermaid (her favourites), but at the same time she is was less whingy because she has been way more occupied creating stuff. I definitely plan to keep these up and hope to see major changes in her behviour soon.

  23. says

    We’ve been away for the weekend where there was no TV, no computer and only a touch of cell phone (but nearly no signal) and it was so liberating. We spent time with our friends, talking, laughing, walking and having quality time with the kidlets. It was so liberating – I really want to try a screen free night at home. Baby steps… I can’t wait for your screen free update!

  24. says

    Oh Bron I realted to so much of this!
    My boy would be on screens all say if I let him!
    I had banned screens on school days, but that’s slowly crept back in. I think I’m going to bring that back though. I’m just over being asked to be on them all the time.

    • Maxabella says

      You know I hear ya! It’s the constant PRESENCE, even when they are off, that finally drove me to ban them outright. x

Trackbacks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>