Throughout the summer, the boys have a pretty flexible schedule. I let them play whatever they want, and they can stay up past their normal bedtime since there’s no rush to get to school the next day. This is a big difference from their routine during the school year, when they have to be in bed by 9pm and are only allowed electronics on weekends. Halfway through the summer, though, I realized that their entertainment of choice revolved around being in front of a screen. Whether it was playing XBox, playing with their Nintendo DS, watching YouTube, or watching movies, they preferred screen time to anything else. One particular Monday I got fed up. They were home with their dad on his day off, and when I got home at 6:30pm from work, I found them in the living room exactly as I left them: in pajamas playing XBox. While they certainly didn’t play video games the entire 8 hours I was gone, I’m sure the bulk of their time was spent on the couch, and I had to do something to change that.
That’s when I got the idea to implement No Screen Week. I told them that they could not touch their XBox, Wii, DS, or YouTube for a week. If they stayed home with daddy on his day off and he wanted to watch a movie with them, that was fine, but they had to stay away from the screen otherwise. During the first couple of days, they thought it was torture. They complained and whined that they were bored and had nothing to do. But one day I came home to this:
Another day, Brandon wanted to build his KNex Roller Coaster, a Christmas gift he begged and pleaded for two years ago, built once, and put away in the closet to gather dust. They spent the day putting it together. (in pajamas, and their beds a disaster, but I know how to pick my battles).
Another day, I walked in the door after work and found Matty drawing on the coffee table (again with the pajamas!).
It took them a little time, but they found ways to entertain themselves that didn’t involved electronics, and they were having fun!
No Screen Week extended into two weeks because they ended up misbehaving during the weekend and I told them I was extending it. That was a mistake on my part, No Screen Week should not be a punishment, but a break to do other things that encourage them to use their imagination.
I don’t know if I imagined it, but it sure seemed like during No Screen Week they fought less and played together instead of against each other. I told them that I know they love to play their video games, but we will definitely have No Screen Week once in a while to encourage them not only to use their imagination, but to play nicely together.
Has screen time gotten out of hand in your household? What kind of screen time limits do you set?