4 steps to keeping my kids screen-free
Oh, the irony! Is it ironic? Nell is super excited about her new blog design (thank you, Jamie!) and yet her own kids have zero access to screens.
Wellll they get to watch the occasional movie, but we don’t own a TV, gaming system, or devices. We have one battered old laptop, one newer one, and one very almost dead desktop I’m hoping to get data recovered from. And two iPhones. Everything is password protected and the kids don’t know those open sesames.
Why? Why deprive our kids of what ostensibly seems to be cutting edge, skills they’ll need, and also, what everyone else is doing socially?
Because increasingly science and researchers tell us what we kinda knew but hoped wasn’t true as a society of exhausted parents looking for something for their kiddo to do that’s enriching and not fighting us/each other. Screen time is damaging to their developing minds. Social media is damaging to their emotional development. We are performing an experiment on this generation of kids and we simply don’t have enough data to know it’s safe to allow developing brains tablet, gaming, online socializing, and passive consumption of screen time in the levels we’re letting in.
SO soap box aside, maybe you’re here to shift your own strategies as a parent, and maybe you have great tips for the rest of us. Here’s how we live screen-free for the kids. (Had a great discussion on instagram right here.)
- REPLACE // when we’ve watched a Magic School Bus episode, they want 10 more. As with any pattern you’re trying to stop, cold turkey isn’t always successful, but replacing desired object with something else? Could be the ticket.
- we’ve found audio stories (Jim Weiss forever) help keep little and big minds engaged
- interactive books for non-readers (Usborne have a million flaps (my friend Sarah is our fav to buy from)
- board games like dog monopoly, catan, and NFL game day are big hits right now
- household chores: stick with me: people who fight clean toilets and people who complain loudly wipe out the fridge so . . . suddenly the desire to find an activity increase dramatically when I remind them of this rule
- outdoor play: we must get outside or they languish and want to “be” entertained
- REMIND// our family is going to do things different in many respects from other families we know, love, and cherish. Screens are one of those differences. Being Catholic is another. Not doing sleepovers is yet another. But I do try to remind them that we have special family traditions we’re building up so we’re not just the family of terrible-no-fun-rotten-mama-is-so-mean.
- BRIBES// every child needs a carrot. Okay maybe not all of them like to eat actual carrots, but we need inducements for behavior, homework completion, politeness, etc. And while screen time is an attractive option perhaps, what are a few others?
- staying up late for special time with one of us
- going out for dessert//book club
- suckers, literally
- older kids can earn money “babysitting” aka watching so the 2.5 year old doesn’t bite the 5 year old while I finish something in the other room. The going rate is . . . $.15/half hour. Steep dollah dollah bills.
- MODEL// My work is nearly all on a screen for writing, editing, and Blessed is She work. My husband barely uses a screen ever when he’s home and he’s a luddite about social media (I’m um the opposite). BUT we both want to model that screens aren’t as interesting as people and that human contact and engagement is far superior. That means, for me:
- not having my phone out in their faces all the time
- not having my phone in my face in front of them
- stepping out of a room to take a call or answer a text if they’re playing or eating in there
- setting time limits/constraints when I’m compulsively checking for updates (tail wagging the dog much?) on all the platforms
- not being on my phone when I’m engaging and interacting with them
- trying to remember to do all of these every day
I’m not leaving my screen anytime, but as my kids age, I will probably feature them less and even less. They have a right to privacy from the world, and their stories are their own. Part of my slowing down on blogging about parenting is that so many of my really juicy ripe stories I wanted to process with you were no longer my own to share.
Happy new site day to me! Happy launch of my summer rompers you can now buy right here! And hopefully you’ve heard some tips that can help you, and/or please share yours on limiting screens with your kiddos and yourself.
Spending summer enjoying this kids book on virtue from Blessed is She!