It doesn’t take all of the studies that exist to know that our children, and ourselves, are glued to our screens too often. We’re missing out on present moment living due to computers, smartphones, and television. Remember how on weekends, streets used to be lined with children playing? Now, often residential areas are like ghost towns, just because everyone is stuck inside.
And it’s not just our children. We can’t say it is. Facebook and notifications distract us from our family and we offer nothing but an example of distraction; distraction from life itself.
I would love to say that I was a parent that had kept electronics from my children. I was so close, our daughters were 8 before they had ever tried a computer game. Living off grid for a long period of time, without highspeed internet, had kept everything pretty limited. But then we moved, got busy, they had homeschool programs online, we got a shop, and soon our boy wanted to take part in games with his sisters... boom. We were lost.
It happens. It spirals. My last hooray is staying away from smartphones simply because I don’t want to tempt myself.
Life. That’s what’s at risk here. Life and tools for life. I’ve felt my way to the point that, for me, it’s not about keeping my children away from technology, it’s part of their generational make-up, rather I need to help them use it with awareness. We have the opportunity to offer our children solutions, awareness to their focus and attention, as well as, hey, a serious amount of fun play time. Life flips by while we scan newsfeeds and cat videos... not to mention the numbing effect of violent video games and the emotional turmoil experienced by children in the name of entertainment. But what’s scarier... if something can be... is the fact that “if you don’t lose it you lose it.” If you don’t know how to follow passions, interests, and wonderment, you lose the ability to experience it at all.
So, here’s my list of 5 things you can do to start curbing screentime. (and please note, there’s not really any “enforced” abandonment of screens entirely. In order to offer awareness and tools for life, we can’t simply restrict and take away. In many ways that simply encourages our children to do it anyway, but not get caught. However, it also means that building awareness takes some time. This isn’t a quick fix and it shouldn’t be. Its foundation building and therefore, a little time makes it a little stronger.)
1) Play with contrasts.
Start to draw attention to the emotional affects on each other of computers and games and even tv shows. Become the experiment. As a family, what happens if you only do screens after lunch or at certain times? What happens if you only go on AFTER you go for a walk and get some exercise... why does it feel better? What feels better? How does it affect how you feel and the general feel of the house? Also, if you’re struggling with television screen time, talk about the different feelings of different shows. What do fast and loud shows feel like, compared to slow ones? Look for differences in behaviour when your children are taking part in one form of entertainment and another. When you take part with the contrasting experiences your children aren’t feeling TOLD what to do or feel, but are observing it themselves and then can start to make conscious decisions on what works for each person. This is Screen/emotional education.
2) Find alternatives.
When we don’t use it, we lose it. If we just tell our kids to get off of the screen, chances are they will be baffled at what to do instead. This isn’t 30 years ago, when childhood was filled with finding things to do. Our children live in a time when they are told what they can do. Chances are few of us still feel comfortable with our children taking off and not telling us where they are going. So, what do they fill their days with? What interests them, sparks them, excites them? What about hobbies and crafts and a huge stack of wood out the back that they can make whatever they want out of. Providing alternatives is providing opportunities... and what’s surprising is that, with those opportunities and alternatives, they rarely want to chose the screen instead. CREATIVE LIVING... is the name of the game.
3) Be the example.
It’s true. Each time we don’t know what to do with ourselves and we choose Facebook instead (my personal demon) of finding something creative ourselves... even just playing with our kids, or meditating under the stars, we are saying that life needs to be distracted from. Each time we say “just a minute” because we are surfing the net... we give the permission for our children to zone out on a screen. Ouch. But so true.
4) Do a family challenge. No Screens (NONE!) for a week.
Go camping, turn off the wifi, turn off the electricity, do whatever it takes. But just get away from it for one week. Stock up on books and board games... go on midnight walks and crazy times. Have fun. Let awareness build all by itself.
5) Turn your attention to your children’s time OFF of screens. The truth is that the law of attraction works with everything and the more we notice what’s not working, the more we notice it... more and more and more. Same too though, the more you notice what is working... the cuddle up bedtimes when you talk together, the morning breakfast when everyone chats, or the walks with the dog when everyone gets exercise, the more those will happen, and the more you will notice. If you are totally focused on how much your family is in front of a screen, then no matter how much everyone tries to get off of them, you’ll never notice. The Law of attraction makes it so. So, start looking out for the moments of connection and play... you might be pleasantly surprised.