Well hello. It’s been a little while since we have chatted, hasn’t it? I hope you had a lovely Christmas.
There’s a reason things have been so quiet around here. Quite out of the blue, and without discussing it with the kids (and only briefly with my husband), I decided that we needed to unplug. Unplug everything. All television, iPad, video games, internet, everything.
Now I am definitely not intending to make you feel guilty in any way if your children watch TV or play apps and video games. I am just saying that things had gotten out of hand here in our family.
I’ve written before about television and screens, and how it was a non-issue in our family; how I am not one for extreme decisions, preferring balance instead, but in this case I truly felt Jack (5.5 yrs) and Sarah (3.5 yrs) needed a clean and absolute break from all screens. And that I too needed to be there for them, setting the example, and reinforcing to them the importance of this decision.
Why? Why suddenly decide to cut out all screens? I can honestly say it was my fault. Jack had become interested in Star Wars and Batman through books and comics. And well even though these shows weren’t on the commercial-free kids’ channel, I thought it was only two shows, it would be fine.
But it wasn’t fine. The kids started to get really demanding, asking for all kinds of toys, singing irritating jingles and well just becoming, honestly, quite obnoxious.
All of their play centred around Star Wars or superheroes. And not in a deep, imaginative way; in a very shallow, monotonous, empty way. The same battle scenes over and over again. The creativity seemed to have been sapped right from them.
They didn’t ask questions anymore. They didn’t wonder anymore. They didn’t build with blocks, their toy shelves left untouched. All they did was watch TV and battle.
So on the 1st of December we stopped all screens.
Now I am not going to tell you that it was all sunshine and unicorns; that Jack and Sarah returned to their former inquisitive, creative selves. It was HARD! The first week was REALLY hard. There were a lot of tantrums. A LOT.
We told Jack and Sarah that we were taking a break from screens for a while. I must have repeated that to them at least a hundred times that first week. It was hard for me too. I was used to the quiet when they were watching TV. It was hard for me not to switch it on when Jack and Sarah started niggling and fighting. But I was resolute in our decision.
And after about three weeks of no screens I can honestly tell you the play returned. Deep, uninterrupted play. Play with their own made-up characters and their own stories.
And questions. For the first time in what seemed like months, Jack was asking questions again. He was noticing things again; wanting to know why and how things work. It wasn’t just TV. It was video games too. We used to allow Jack to play video games on Saturday mornings before breakfast. It doesn’t sound like much, but that time consumed his thoughts. After playing on Saturday morning, (if he wasn’t talking about Star Wars or Batman) he was talking about what he did on Little Big Planet. By mid-week he was talking about what he was going to do come Saturday morning again.
It was driving us CRAZY!
After four weeks I am ready to bring some TV and internet use back into their lives. But I have learnt a lot about how much they can tolerate before it strips them of their creativity. I still believe that screens can contribute positively to our lives and our children’s learning but I know now that video games are not a part of that, neither is commercial television.
I got careless I guess. I don’t know. Maybe less mindful. Either way. It has been a long, hard December. But I see the kids now, see the change and know that it was all worth it.
They are happier. We are happier.