Blog,  Parenting

Turning Off the Screen

Joyfully we listen to the sound of children playing outside in the winter sun, inside the computer screens sit silent. Far too often lately the children have been indoors grouped around the computer screens, finally however we have declared ‘enough!’

For the first nine years of our marriage the only electronic screen in our home was a rarely used computer. Life was far simpler, with no TV/DVDs and very minimal computer exposure, our children played outside for hours; in the sandpit, climbing trees and building from scraps of timber; inside they spent many hours crafting, playing with jigsaws and ‘dressing up’.

As much I wish it had, life didn’t stay so simple, there came the day we caved and bought a television (to watch The Test Match.) At first our screen was limited to DVDs, several years later we added an aerial, then we bought a couple of faster computers, two years ago we added a PlayStation, then more computers and recently we were gifted an XBox.

Whilst we still discern carefully the suitability of television programs, DVDs and gaming discs, we have over a period of time slid into a pattern of spending more time on electronic pursuits than we feel healthy.

A few months ago I read Last Child in the Woods; Saving our Children from a Nature-Deficit Disorder. Louv discusses the importance of children connecting with Nature and how many children today are simply not spending time outdoors, one of the reasons for this is electronic media. I began researching the impact of screen time on children and recently I’ve been googling to find out just how much electronic exposure per day is recommended. Children under two should have NO screen time and children over two have one to two hours only.

My research findings are not unfamiliar to us, nor are we surprised. We’ve long known from observation the impact of too much screen time on children. They become fractious and lethargic. Most worrisome their creativity is effected, and they are less likely to engage in outdoor play.

We have of course, tried various methods to enforce screen restrictions at times but our current method seems to be producing the best results. The study (computer room) door is staying locked until 7.30pm every night, nor are DVDs watched until about this time. This means of course I have to lead the way, so I’m finding it a little difficult to find blogging time, but it is so worthwhile.

As we’ve lived through ‘screen detox’ before we’re familiar with the patterns. After a few days of aimlessness; physical activity increases, the children reconnect with nature and creativity abounds:)

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  • Anonymous

    Absolutely! I am so with you on this one. Too much screen time drives their addiction and kills creativity and relationships. But when you're tired it's just too easy to give in to the "babysitters". We cycle through periods of no tv (rare), minimal tv (usual) and too much tv (sometimes). But the one consistent I try to stick to is no screens before lunch, and preferably no screens before about 3pm. This does make a difference, but you would be surprised how dedicated to checking that I haven't changed my mind one small girl in my household is! Of course it's hard to have no computer screens before lunch with our dodgy satellite internet plan!

    How's it working with your big kids when computers are needed for study?


  • Sue Elvis

    Erin, what outdoor activities does Koala like to do? Do you have to encourage her to go outside? I have found that my older girls don't seem to just drift outside and enjoy the fresh air and nature. They will go for walks and join in on family outings, but they would much prefer to sit inside nice and warm with a book, rather than join the younger girls outdoors. Then again, I'm the same. I don't even like going out on cool winter days to hang out the washing!

  • Tracey

    Like you we tend to say no to tv/gaming until early evening knowing that the time will naturally limit itself due to meals, showers and bedtime.

    We went through a period where we only allowed an hour of tv on the weekends. That was bliss.

    Children seem so much happier without 'the box' and adults are a lot more productive too. We seem to seek screen time as it's rather addictive and hard to break free of.

  • The Handmaden

    It's great you're going back to restrictions – not easy to do I imagine. Thankfully, 3 of our 4 children have grown up with no tv but we do let them watch suitable dvds on the computer.
    The computer can be a problem here too and it's a constant challenge to me to try not to use it as a quick fix or babysitter.

  • Owner of Homeschool Faith and Family Life Website

    Thanks for the book recommendation.
    I will try to find it.
    Also, have you read "The Plug-In Drug"? Excellent, as well. It is the analysis of what the actual action of "watching" television has done to society…very interesting, alarming, while not surprising, and convicting. I recommend the book to anyone considering "television" and what the dangers are of "too much".

    Thankfully, my kids spend way more time outdoors or involved in other activities other than those fueled by electronics. Granted, they are right there and ready when we invite them to a movie or show…but mostly, we keep it off during the day.

    Good for you in making a decision where you saw a need. Enjoy your summer of UNplugging!

  • Willa

    Erin, thanks for this post; it is very good timing for me. I am noticing the same electronic overgrowth around here. It's always been a balancing act but it seems harder with more older children somehow.

  • Erin

    Thank you, and welcome to my blog:) I've enjoyed discovering your grain free posts.

    thanks for the encouragement:)

    Encouraging you{} Not sure how the study time will work as we are still on holidays. I'm thinking I will go back to locking the door after lunch.

    Umm still struggling there, she is happy reading indoors. We did have a hammock at one stage and would go out and read in it.

    It does sound bliss:) I agree it is addictive. which is why I have to lead by example. ouch.

    Feeble winter sun somedays:(

    Too true, any screen is an issue.

    Sounds like a great book. The secret is keeping them off to start with, encouraged to hear you are doing well.

    It is harder with older ones. They are more sedentary anyhow.

  • Chareen

    You have echoed my feelings in this post. I can recall some of the best years at our home was when we did not own a tv or computer!
    I'll be honest I really enjoy using the internet but I do need to find balance in using this. I want to look and see if the library has a few of the books you and the ladies have talked about.
    Thank you for sharing this is so spot on =)

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