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A Big List of What Happened When I Banned Screens For a Week

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Anyone who knows me, knows that I don’t have a TV, and I rarely let my older kids watch movies. Nevertheless, over the past few months, the amount of screen viewing (iPhone) kept gradually increasing, until one day, I realised that the older kids (8 and 6) were spending over an hour and sometimes two hours in front of a screen. And, my little one, who isn’t even 2, had used the phone enough that he could turn on the phone, open the app he wanted and play or watch something (and I’m so against letting little ones on screens)! Unfortunately, even he was spending 30-45 minutes in front of the screen per day. Things were really hectic for a while and I was using the screen as a babysitter to try and get stuff done.

But, what’s ironic, is that when I gave my kids the phone, even though I could get stuff done, the aftermath was never worth it! They would get bored, act crazy, whine and FIGHT and the hour or two of ‘peace’ backfired ten times and then we spent the day feeling all scattered and disconnected.

So,  I had had enough! We needed a break! It wasn’t a punishment, it was an agreement. Actually, my 6 year old was HAPPY to have the break. The older one wasn’t so much… but wait until you read the last dot point on the list.

Our screen ‘ban’ was not a total ban. That would have been too unsustainable. We were still allowed to use it for practical things, like looking up stuff on the internet, calling the grandparents on Skype, taking photos, etc. I also didn’t ban myself from screens… so oops! Probably this ban could have been better, but I definitely limited myself and only used the screen for work or for a short amount of time doing other brain numbing activities, like social media.

Almost all of these dot points are ones my kids came up when we talked about the results of our screen ban.

  • They virtually stopped fighting (actually, I heard one or two during the whole week, but we homeschool and they’re on top of each other all day, so fair enough).
  • They almost completely stopped whining.
  • They cooperated better.
  • They were less bored.
  • They stopped looking for distractions. My oldest is the worst with this. If she can’t watch her screens, then she asks for food, friends to play with, all in that order! But, during this week, all of that stopped.
  • They played more with their toys and stuff around the house.
  • I had more time! Yes, can you believe it?! I’m not sure how this worked… but I think it’s because I was more connected to them, and they weren’t as needy.
  • My house was more peaceful.
  • They ‘behaved’ better. Not that they’re out of control to begin with, but the biggest change was in my son. Little ones are so so super sensitive to screens! And, he would get all crazy if he watched even for a little while.
  • They ate better (presumably because they were more active and their minds were more settled).
  • We spent more time doing fun stuff! ‘Cause sitting on your butt around the house and watching shows on the iPhone isn’t actually that fun…
  • More time connecting, which = better behaviour
  • We were late less often! This one surprised me. If they ever got sucked into the screens before we had to leave somewhere, it would take so long to get them unglued and fully functioning for us to get out of the door.
  • They were more creative.
  • They played better together… held hands and did cutsie stuff that normally never do.
  • My son was less aggressive and destructive. 
  • My son’s speaking improved dramatically (in one week… really).
  • My son made it to the toilet more often.
  • They put on dance shows and did more craft. 
  • They fell asleep more easily and slept more peacefully. 
  • They read more books. 
  • Their reading improved dramatically. (In one week… really…)
  • At 22 1/2 months my son FINALLY started walking (could have been a coincidence, but still, it happened during the screen ban).
  • My 6 year old FINALLY learned how to swing herself (coincidence again? could be…)
  • They ENJOYED the break and asked for another week break in three day’s time!

It could have been a pure coincidence that all of my kids had huge developmental leaps during their screen break… but I have to wonder how screens were not helping anyone all that time. On the week that our ban was over, my 8 year old, the one who I knew would be feeling the screen ban the most, actually said, “Can we use the phones for three days and then have another week break?” My eyes nearly fell out of my head! I’m sure she might say something different after a few days, but her response was epic.

I think that taking breaks from screens are going to be a thing in our house from now on. While, I won’t ban them permanently, I will definite be more mindful and not use them as a crutch so often. We’re a tech friendly family, and I love how technology and screens has enabled us to do things we could never do before. I also DON’T feel guilty about the time that I let my kids use screens. At the time, maybe it was necessary to get me through a short period of chaos.

7 Responses »

  1. Wonderful post! Screen time is something that we are still working out for our family. My little guy is 2.5 and while we don’t have a TV we do have a tablet and I fell into the trap of letting him watch shows so that I could have a mental break. We don’t do daycare and we don’t have people where we are living so there is no down time for me. I was just exhausted for a bit there and I must admit that I let the screen time get out of control. Now that I am feeling better we have been slowly decreasing screen time and the positive changes in the little one are so lovely to see. I am also decreasing my own screen time and the positive changes that I see in myself are even better. I don’t think that we will ever be screen free, but we will definately be striving for a lot less screen time moving forward. Now if we could just get Dadda on board!!

  2. Love this. It’s so easy to slowly fall into the screen trap and way harder to get out but it makes such a difference. I sometimes quietly hate that technology is almost inevitable in this day in age. Well written and a great reminder!

    • This sounds exactly like parents who think sugar winds up their kids when it doesn’t. You believed there would be a change so you created a change or perceived a change that wasn’t there.

  3. really interesting observations, in such a small time… steiner schooling im sure suggests no tech until age 16, tv certainly, as just not normal for development to be on the outside looking in on human interactions – interesting stuff, thanks for read and insight

  4. Sarah Cummings

    Wow! I never thought that this would turn out this way since they’re still kids and are easily distracted by screens. Glad the outcome are splendid!

  5. Interesting article, and something that I am thinking about how to deal with at the moment… I also read your post on giving kids more control and autonomy over their lives. I am currently reading a book called radical unschooling where the author is saying she has not limits on TVs and screens (I think she has at least 5 TVs in the house??) but her kids uses screens differently than schooled kids because they use it for learning while schooled kids use it more as a distraction from reality. I like to think kids can limit themselves in life if given the opportunity to and don’t have too many limits (limits makes it interesting and exciting), but I don’t know about screens. I guess the important thing is to recognise when they use it for distraction from negative emotions and when they use it for learning and entertainment… Tough one…

    • Oh yes, a lot of radical unschoolers have unlimited screen time. From my experience, and we homeschool, you should do screens with awareness. If the child is using them as a distraction, or repressing emotions, then maybe it’s ok to talk about it and discuss if they’re aware how it makes them feel and why they are prone to going to the screen. Also, very young children should have limits.. I feel… it’s just such a powerful tool and their little brains are still very sensitive.


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