Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Life Without Screen Time

Saturday morning jam session

We're almost half way through our Lenten screen time fast.  Going into the fast I had a few preconceived ideas about how it would go.  I figured the kids would fight me every step of the way.  I assumed, while challenging, that I would do fine with it.  I was wrong.  Here are a few of the things that I have learned over the past three weeks as a result of our fast.

1. My children are perfectly capable of coming up with alternatives to screen time.  In the last three weeks David has read around twenty books.  He is always disappearing for hours in his room absorbed in reading on the Kindle (He's working his way through the Tom Swift series that's free on Amazon for the Kindle).  Lizzy has discovered a love for nonfiction books.  Every week at the library she tests the capacity of her arms by checking out huge stacks of books.  She is also constantly disappearing into her room to read one of her books.  Joy...well, Joy is still working on entertaining herself when her siblings are busy reading.  She is much more likely to be found glued to my side helping me with chores, cooking, or just sitting next to me on the couch.  But the kids have come up with so many creative games and projects.  Every time I turn around they're doing something new like using every pot and bowl in the house as drums for a jam session.

2. The "Witching Hour" is not a problem when I give the kids KP duty.  I purchased two new vegetable peelers a few weeks ago so that I could set all of my kids to work prepping dinner veggies.  They now fight over who gets to peel the most when the numbers don't split evenly.  They are becoming experts in chopping and prepping produce for dinner.  I am becoming an expert at letting them.  More times than not you will find us all crowded into the kitchen cooking dinner as a family.  (We really need a larger kitchen)

Peeling potatoes for dinner

3. My kids can't handle TV during the day time.  On Monday we had the carpets cleaned in our two main rooms--the living and dining rooms.  Our kitchen is overrun with both our kitchen and dining room table.  Basically, there was no where for us to go except our bedrooms or the basement.  I took pity on my children and let them watch a movie Monday morning.  That was a mistake.  The whining and complaining that ensued that day.  "I'm bored."  "There's nothing to do."  "Can we watch another movie?"  At bedtime Lizzy summed it up with, "Today was not a good day.  The things that I normally like didn't seem very fun."  When we've watched a movie in the evening as a family, we've had no such issues.  It is clear to me that TV is the problem around here.

4. Computer games are not the problem.  Two weeks ago Hubby was home sick from work.  He also found out that day that his old boss passed away from complications with cancer.  He was very upset and in need of a distraction.  I told the kids to go play Minecraft with him.  They all spent the afternoon playing on the computer.  Despite that, they were perfect angels the rest of the day and showed no ill effects from it.  They found things to do after dinner that did not involve whining or following me around the house declaring their boredom.  Interesting.

5. The whining for screen time only lasted the first week.  Once we got past the first week, the kids stopped whining and complaining about the lack of screen time.  They found things to do all on their own.  They've come up with new games to play, have designed many things out of blocks and legos, have played for hours in the storage room with their plasma cars and roller skates, and have done a ton of reading.

1. I am not perfectly able to come up with alternatives to screen time.  What does one do when they can't jump on the computer and check their email or waste time on Facebook???  I have a half hour while dinner bakes--I want to use the computer, not read a book or clean something.  I'm eating lunch--I just want to check my email or the weather or the news or Facebook.  Even after three weeks, I still have a hard time with this.

2. The "Witching Hour" is a problem when I can't check my email or Facebook.  See above comment.

3. TV is a non-issue for me.  I could care less if I never watched another TV show again.  I never turn it on during the day unless I'm sick (I still like watching the occasional episode of The Price is Right).  I would rather read in the evenings than watch TV.  Basically, my TV usage is limited to one or two movies a month even without the screen time fast.

4. Computer usage IS the problem.  I have not been very good at sticking to my one hour a day limit.  I am the queen of excuses for justifying going over my time limit.  I like my computer and I like the internet; my computer and phone call to me with their siren song.  Limiting my computer time is WAY more difficult for me than last month's food fast.

5. The whining for screen time hasn't stopped yet.  I just whine on the inside where no one but God can hear me.  I don't want to go fold laundry; I want to waste time online.  I don't want to read yet another book to my kids; I want to check my email.  You get the idea.  While on the outside I may look serene, my inside self is kicking and screaming and waging a very ugly battle against itself.

As you can see, some of us are doing better than others with our screen fast.  It's a lot easier to stick with the fast when you have an enforcer standing over you saying, "No computer for you."  Clearly I am a good enforcer when it involves anyone but me.  Going into this I knew that limiting my computer time would be a challenge, I just didn't realize how much of a challenge it would be.  I wouldn't go so far as to say that I get the shakes without it, but it might be close.

All of the changes resulting from the fast have been good.  I love the positive relating that has been the direct result of coming up with creative solutions to boredom.  I enjoy the family cooking sessions.  I like that my kids are no longer begging for screen time with their every waking breath.  Going forward after this fast is over, I plan to keep most of the changes.  TV usage will continue to be significantly reduced viewed only on weekends in limited amounts (a family movie or one episode of Myth Busters for David).  Computer usage will be allowed but also in limited amounts--once or twice a week they can do a Minecraft session with Daddy, but that's it.  No more daily computer time.

As for me...I am still thinking and praying about that.  Computer usage is obviously a much bigger issue for me that I need to address beyond this fast.  My response to it has not been the best.  I just haven't decided the best way to go about fixing the problem--continue trying to self-enforce limitations on time, install a timer program that locks the computer after a certain time frame, relocate the laptop that is conveniently sitting on the coffee table next to my usual spot on the couch, keep my cell phone in my purse and turn off the "cheeps" it makes when I get a new email so I don't get that adrenaline rush that says "Must check email now."  Something I will be praying about for the rest of the fast so I have a plan of action going forward.

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