Today, I am happy to report, was a screen-free day in our household, after a very very long time. It was a normal, lazy Sunday in our home, and we had no plans. Normally, our weekdays are packed with preschool, chores, and our daily routine. Weekends are busy with social outings, and then Sunday is for Sunday school. Well today, we didn’t have anything and one thing we also didn’t have was TV time.
Establish a Screen Routine
So before I started this blog post, I went back and re-read my previous post about Screen Time, which was exactly one year ago. And though a lot hasn’t changed since then, one thing did and that was the amount of time that we allow for the kids. At the time we used to allow the kids one full hour, but since then we have strictly kept it at 30 minutes everyday. And it has worked.
Everyday, the kids know that they are allowed 30 minutes of screen time, which is one TV show episode. And then once it’s credits start rolling, my kids literally fight to shut the TV off. It only took them about a week when we had started this, to learn that when 30 minutes is up, and that’s it, TV off. Repetition and routine is everything to kids. Once you make it a rule, no exceptions, it’s law and they’ll get used to it.
What about long rides?
Besides the thirty minutes of TV time for the kids, they don’t really have any other mode to watch on…no ipads, no phones. During the car rides, plane rides, dinner outs, my kids are screen-free. And I think because we had chosen this route long ago, now it just isn’t a problem. People often ask me how do our kids sit so long during dinners, or gatherings at the mosque. I think about it, and the answer is, they haven’t had to rely on screens (neither have we) ever, and so they behave the same all the time at any situation where they need to sit. And I mean, they aren’t perfect. They misbehave, fight, cry, get antsy, but isn’t all that normal child behavior?
So what is the alternative? Well since both kids were very tiny, they haven’t been accustomed to the screen time during travel. Instead of screens, they were given toys, coloring activities, stickers, and such things for the long car travel and plane rides. And when they tire of those, they usually snack a lot or end up sleeping.
Screen-free and Surviving it…
Now back to today, I hadn’t planned on making it a screen-free day, it just sort of happened. They asked of course, they always ask for it, like their daily dose of medicine. But we said no, and they whined, but then eventually got distracted and played. They played all kinds of things, that they never thought to ask for it again. And it was sort of effortless. So maybe we should do this more often?
Too much or too little?
This is something I think about as a mother, a lot. What is too much and what is enough? What will affect them, and how much exposure they should have to the tools of today. Is our decision of screen-free going to impact them negatively because they won’t be able to learn how to use these applications as quickly as other children?
But then I tell myself, they are developing just fine without it. And I don’t want to surrender myself to a device to keep my kids happy. I know that there will be a day, in the future, that devices will be a part of their lives. But not right now, not as long as I can help it. I want them to really experience childhood, and I’ll be a little selfish too, because I want to soak it up with them.
When we are out to eat, I want nothing more than to converse with my children. Right now, we color together on the kiddie menu, we make silly faces, and we experiment with the salt and pepper packets. But later on, we will be having lively conversations I imagine. But how will they know how to sit at the dinner table, if we don’t take the time out to teach them? How will they learn how to eat, if we don’t let them do it themselves, no matter how messy it’ll get.
Lastly, kids learn most by example. I feel like we turn into our parents- to some extent, and if my kids are going to turn into me, than I better give them the best version of me. That is one of if not the toughest part of parenting. Well when we talk about screen-free, that means all of us. If we are with our kids, we are also screen-free for the entire day. Yes, we check our notifications here and there. But no mindless scrolling!
And to add one last thing, the kids do get to watch movies from time to time, and it’s always a special treat for them, that they look forward to.
Have you tried to be screen-free with the kids? If not, what keeps you from trying? By no means am I an expert, but I invite everything you’re willing to share! Comment below.