Lessons learned during Screen-Free Week: the good, the bad, and the eye-opening

I’m baaaack!

So, I’m here which means I survived Screen-Free week. As expected, I had the hardest time with it; my family handled it wonderfully though. And, yes, we put Big Brother and Little Sister to work. Thankfully, at 7 and 4, they still enjoy a little work in the yard.

Here’s the lowdown on what went on while unplugged…the good, the bad, and the eye-opening.

The Good

The kids were awesome. Honestly, they surprised us. We never once heard the dreaded, “I’m bored” or “we don’t know what to do”. They made it really easy on us and (gasp) found other things to do besides play on the iPad or watch one of their favorite shows.

Sure…most of our down time looked like this…

 

And the house seemed to be in a constant state of disarray, but whatever.

They read, played games, did crafts, played catch in the backyard, and amused us with their sibling antics.

The Bad

I went through Facebook and Twitter withdrawls. It was SOOO hard not to scan my feeds and see what was going on. Day one sort of killed me…but then it got better. I felt free from that constant pull.

I locked myself out of the house on Friday. I kind of blame Screen-Free Week. My mind was so relaxed, calm, and uncluttered…I sauntered out of the house, locking the garage door behind me…without my keys. What a fiasco that was. Good thing for great friends willing to pick your kids up from school in a pinch and a husband who promptly dropped everything to get home before I called a locksmith.

Oh, and thank god for my iPhone. My little hand-held screen came to my rescue. Ironic, really.

And then Saturday came around. The week was so busy with school, work, and afterschool activities, that we hardly missed our screens anyway. Saturday was another screen-free story. Big Brother had an early baseball game and Little Sister had swimming lessons. We were home by lunchtime and we were beat. I didn’t want to entertain and the kids were clearly wiped out but no way were they going to take a nap.

I caved. I called it their reward for doing so darn good during Screen-Free Week…movie night for everyone! It was awesome and relaxing. Still, I feel a little guilty that their reward was really code for “my reward” and “I’m just too tired to do anything else”.

The eye-opening

We had really been relying on various screens to get us through our days. I would routinely put on one of my kids’ favorite shows upon returning from work and school pick-up. I felt like it helped me and them to decompress and not immediately start in with the whining.

But you know what? There was less whining and less agitation this whole week. They found other ways to relax and unwind and I think they felt better connected to me because I wasn’t somewhere else on my computer. The various screens were definitely coming between us, I can see that now.

I was calmer and got more sleep. Enough said, right?

Moderation is still key. Saturday’s drawback reminded me that there are times when relaxing with a great movie is just plain awesome.

Changes we’re making

No TV or any other screen in the morning. We have enough trouble getting everyone out the door on time. I noticed a much calmer morning routine; and not having to remind Big Brother to get off the iPad and get dressed was really good for my sanity.

No screens in the car. Without the iPad or DSi for Big Brother and iPhone for Little Sister, our drives have been much nicer. Like they were before we introduced these portable screens. They actually look out the window and gawk at the passing train. Sure, we’re back to a million questions I don’t necessarily know how to answer…but I’ll take it! Long car rides are of course, the exception.

No more than 30 minutes of screen time on weeknights. They just don’t need it and bedtime has been so much better without it.

For me, no lingering on social media until my work (doctoring, writing, mothering, etc) is done. Which means until after the kids go to bed. This will be a challenge. But definitely a worthwhile one.

All in all, Screen-Free Week was a success. We may have broken a rule on Saturday, but sometimes…rules are meant to be broken, right? As a family, we are more in tune with each other and realize we may have been relying on our screens a little too much. What I love is that Big Brother and Little Sister genuinely seem proud that they accomplished this screen-free mission with us.

It brought us closer.

And that’s always good in my book.

Who else went Screen-Free last week? What surprised you the most about it? Ever thought about cutting back on your screen time?

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15 Responses to Lessons learned during Screen-Free Week: the good, the bad, and the eye-opening
  1. Vincent Iannelli, MD
    May 7, 2012 | 6:52 am

    Congratulations.

    The biggest lesson I learned is that it isn’t the end of the world if you miss your favorite show and that you can get a lot more stuff done without the TV on in the background.

    I had to cheat a little though, as my crossword puzzles, books, and magazines are all on my iPad now.

    • Melissa
      May 22, 2012 | 1:14 am

      Congratulations to you too!

  2. Kimber from Stilettos In The Mud
    May 7, 2012 | 6:56 am

    I went to a seminar years ago regarding flat screen technology and developing brains. Our kids were raised without TV, computers, cell phones, and game boys until the last few years. Even with it in the house now, my kids choose other activities a lot more often than one would expect. We might go a few weeks in June, when we move, without hooking things back up … we will see. I think Ill have the hardest time of it because of all my blogging and such :) I also don’t allow tv in the mornings… and at night the kids listen to stories on tape to wind down. It has become a daily habit for us.

  3. Janie
    May 7, 2012 | 7:33 am

    I have to congratulate you for surviving the week! We recently did screen time moderation around here too. Mostly limited ipad time since we hardly watch tv. My toddler girl had fun rediscovering other playthings and playing pretend. It was much easier than I thought.

  4. Dr. Ann
    May 7, 2012 | 7:53 am

    Melissa,
    Great to see what you learned, that you survived, that you thrived! I also frequently get sucked into the vortex of social media, but I like your idea of setting time limits and sticking to it. For everyone in the family!
    Blessings,
    Ann

  5. Olusola
    May 7, 2012 | 8:58 am

    Sounds great and rewarding. I went screen free for a month last year and it was eye-opening. I saw so much more of my kids when I wasn’t distracted by the screen. Now I try to be screen free every evening until they go to bed.

  6. Jenny
    May 7, 2012 | 10:26 am

    Melissa,
    I really enjoy reading your blog- you have a lot of great insight and advice. Since my son started kindergarten- he’s now 9 and my daughter 6, we instituted a no-electronics-during the school week rule. It’s saved us a lot of aggravation and arguments and the kids have plenty to do without it. And I agree that their behavior in general is much better without it. On the weekends they’re each allotted 2 hours of video game time (iPod, ds, wii) which they can divide up however they choose, and then we watch tv as a family in the mornings and occasionally a movie as well. My kids never ask for screens during the week and instead I have to tear them away from their books in order to get them to get ready or go to sleep. It’s been great for us and I would encourage all parents to try it!

  7. Rhea
    May 7, 2012 | 11:45 am

    I love that this turned out to be a barometer for you to find your own balance and limits as a family. By going screen-free, you found the places you could give it up and the places it is something helpful in your life. It reminds me of when people do elimination diets to figure out what they are allergic to. This is inspiring!

  8. Delina
    May 7, 2012 | 12:26 pm

    Our family had a very similar experience. I haven’t had a chance to blog about it because I’m still catching up from everything I didn’t do online during screen-free week. I really think the kids loved it and we all enjoyed connecting with each other and making eye contact. They were much better behaved, less whiny. I really think all of our screens allow us to be disconnected to each other even though we’re with each other all day. Not cool.
    I was amazed how much sleep we got too! I think scheduled screen time is key to not letting it take over our lives!
    Thanks for posting your insights!

  9. angela
    May 7, 2012 | 6:36 pm

    I’ve tried to cut out TV for the kids. It was getting to be too much of a crutch around here. They’ll watch with my parents or my in-laws, and every once in a while I’ll let them watch a show. I find we do better without it, though I haven’t completely unscreened myself :(

  10. Jessica
    May 8, 2012 | 10:10 am

    Congratulations! It’s really awesome that you and your family went through with it and came out having learned something. I think I want to have our own screen free week. You’ve inspired me. Maybe next week I’ll give it a try!

  11. Craig Canapari MD
    May 8, 2012 | 5:36 pm

    Quite an achievement. Made me reflect on our screen habits as well. Amazing how uncomfortable our culture has become with the idea of being board. When was the last time you were in an elevator without everyone checking their phone?

    As a parent, I try really hard to not check my phone when I’m with my kids to a) be present b) model appropriate behavior. It’s really hard, especially when, say, I want to take a picture of them and upload it to Facebook.

    • Melissa
      May 22, 2012 | 1:16 am

      You’re right on about the taking a pic and uploading to facebook. Ahh…the love/hate we have with all this digital connectedness. I really want to make more of a concerted effort to not check my phone when with my kids. Really.

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  13. Stefanie
    May 17, 2012 | 12:29 pm

    It sounds like it went really well!

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