The older kids’ school requested that families do a “media-free” week last week. It was an idea I liked in theory but the timing couldn’t have been worse. They’d had winter break the week prior, which meant all of them were home so I got very little work done. I was playing catch-up and could have benefitted from the quiet that throwing on a movie can provide. Still, I wanted to
win the teachers’ approval honor the school’s wishes and so we declared our home media-free for 7 days. Surprisingly, there was very little whining from the kids, in part because they’d heard the principal talk about it, so they knew it was serious business.
I am here to report: something clicked during our media-free week. It’s like their creativity blossomed. We aren’t even a media-heavy family. I try to keep good boundaries with our screen-time using a token system and timer, and on a typical weekday they might get to watch a Phineas and Ferb episode, and each kid might get a turn playing with iphone apps on my phone. But even though we do okay with keeping it to a minimum, the problem is that they are always thinking about it. “Can I play on your phone?” is the most oft-used phrase in the house. While the screen time may be limited to under an hour, during the other hours of the day, it’s as if they are walking around aimlessly waiting for their next “fix”. Like they are little addicts biding their time until they can partake of their drug of choice.
Taking it away altogether seemed to release them from thinking about it, and freed them to find other ways to occupy their time. They played games. They pretended. They sang and put on shows. No one asked to use my phone . . . they came home from school each day excited to play. It felt like there was a greater sense of harmony and cooperation.
We also lingered at the YMCA longer. The boys played basketball while the girls sat and made up songs. Again . . . no one was asking for my phone and/or pouting because I said no. Just relaxed, ‘in-the-moment play.
It was definitely a reminder of the influence of media,, and how it has affected our family even with the time limits we’ve put in place. I’m not quite ready to give it up completely . . . the kids do their homework online and I am still a believer in some of the educational apps we’ve got. But I do want to figure out how to give them more freedom from the nagging draw of screen-time. (And honestly, I’d like to do that for myself, too.)
Have you ever done a media fast? Did you notice a difference? How do you keep the lure of media in check in your home, for your kids or for yourself?