Tech & Media
I Took Screens Away From My Kids For a Month and The Results Weren’t What I Expected
By Katharine Reid
Photo © brittleighhhh/Twenty20
Mar 26, 2019
I think we all know what too much screen time can do to our kids. It can make them whinier, bounce-off-the-wall crazier and more demanding. Or is that just my kids?
I have a four-year-old who simultaneously loves high-octane TV shows (Paw Patrol, I’m looking at you) and also can’t really handle them. When they are turned off, he gets into a rage that is really hard to talk him down from. And I can understand why. If I felt like having a Netflix marathon and someone decided it was time to end it, I’d be frustrated, too! Some of us have addictive personalities and screen time has been proven to be extremely addictive, especially for young kids.
Depending on the kid, some will play while half-watching a show (like my two-and-a-half-year-old) and some, like my four-year-old, will sit there like a zombie, forget to listen to his body and then (not surprisingly!) have a full on meltdown when TV time is over. His cues are all off – he stops feeling his needs, like hunger cues, bathroom break cues, or the fact that his body needs to MOVE.
Relevant Reading: How to Set Screen-Time Rules That Work
And that’s why it’s my job to limit (or eliminate) screen time. In our house, TV and screen time for my kids is usually pretty limited. That being said, I have a four-year-old and two-year-old, I’m a full-time stay-at-home-parent and I'm pregnant. This winter, and this pregnancy, have been one for the books in terms of frigid temps and illness all around. So it’s safe to say we used screen time when we needed it.
In my opinion, screen time is a tool. It’s not a go-to for us, and it’s not part of our daily schedule. But it is a tool that I will use if I need it (usually while dinner is being prepped and everyone is screeching at me like hangry barn owls).
But I also wanted to see what would happen if my kids didn't get screens at all for a month. And while it was tough at times, the results were actually pretty astounding.
Young kids have an endless capacity for creativity and imagination. Which means they never really get bored if they have the right tools (toys, sensory play, books, etc.). I find the more my kids are entertained by someone else (or something else, like TV) the less they remember how to entertain themselves. My kids’ ability to play independently skyrocketed when TV was removed from the equation. They spent their time making up elaborate games, building Lego together (sometimes for an hour at a time) and creating art.
They stopped asking for TV
For the first couple of days of no screen time, my kids kept asking to watch a show. But miraculously, after about a week, they stopped. They didn’t even mention it or seem to miss it.
Relevant Reading: How to Manage Screen Time With Kids of Different Ages
Maybe it was a coincidence, but I found my kids less irritable and more engaged in general when screens were completely removed from the equation for an entire month. That’s a major bonus.
As a stay-at-home parent, breaks are few and far between. I rarely have uninterrupted me time to finish my thoughts, be free of the responsibilities of caregiving and just generally feel like my own person, rather than always a mom.
While I love the major benefits of skipping screen time, it means there is never a moment in the day that I’m guaranteed to have autonomy. Going forward, I think we’ll stick to screen time as a tool. One that allows me to cook dinner in relative peace, get something done or just take a deep breath. Sometimes the opening credits of a children’s TV show actually calm me down, even when they’re doing the opposite for my kids.
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