Will Life End Without Screens? Telly Addicts going Cold Turkey

I’ve probably moaned on here before about how reliant my children – especially my 5 year old – are on screens for entertainment. Telly, computer, iPod, DS, Wii – you name it, they love it. I suspect the youngest would actually watch an advert on repeat rather than live a life without screens. I know that I am to blame. I work from home and all too often use the square (rectangle) baby sitter as distraction so I can finish what I need to. The amount of time both boys spend in front of screens has gradually crept up and is now at a level I think is completely and shamefully unacceptable – around 4 hours a day for the oldest and possibly more for the youngest as he wakes earlier.

We (husband and I) know it has an impact on their behaviour. The more they watch/play/stare the more they bicker and the cheekier they get towards us and it’s reached a point where we’re thoroughly fed up with having to tell them 3 or more times to do something (get dressed/unload the dishwasher/go to bed).We’ve done screen-bans in the past and this week I’ve decided to go from Sunday night until Friday after school with no screens for them. The only exception is the youngest gets 2 x 15 minute bursts of his school’s online literacy games resource, but I am sitting with him.

I was interested to see if this had any impact on their behaviour and youngest’s ability to play on his own. He’s really bad at this – doesn’t like spending time in his own company, prefers to be around others even if it involves watching his older brother on his iPod (not getting a turn, just being allowed to watch!)

Monday
Morning good. Kids gravitated to my laptop where I was working. Youngest wanted to go to breakfast club now there’s no morning telly to distract him at home. Afternoon not bad. Youngest had 15 minutes on literacy games, wandered around for 15 minutes aimlessly then complained of boredom. Then he found some cardboard and started using it to make a lion’s mane. Wow – he has an imagination after all! Oldest occupied playing LEGO and reading. Raucous game involving Nerf guns and lots of thumping ensued but no blood so I assumed all was well.At dinner at the table as a family – first time we have done this for ages (with the exception of when we go out to eat).

Tuesday
Another good morning. Request for telly from youngest but no problems when it was denied, even though I was working off and on. No breakfast club this morning but no issues occupying themselves until school time. Afternoon was fine. Youngest asked to go on literacy games again but I said no. Played a few card games as a family before kids went to bed. Husband and I had telly on while they were downstairs (we only have one TV) but they definitely didn’t get their own shows.

Wednesday
Youngest seems to be sleeping later. Not sure if this has anything to do with lack of screens. Certainly the lack of arguing, pleading, cajoling and threatening to get them ready for school is! Youngest had 15 minutes of literacy games in afternoon but no pouting/tears/pleading when it was time to get off. Visitors distracted them for a bit and oldest went to park to play footy with a friend, then played footy in backyard with youngest before dinner. Loving these lighter evenings!

Surprisingly, it is the oldest who is missing screens the most. He gets bored at around 6.30-7pm, with lots of time to kill before his 8.30pm bedtime. He’s been filling his time reading and drawing, but is itching to play games on his iPod or watch TV for some variety.

Thursday
Morning fine. No hassles getting ready for school and out the door. Afternoon: asked boys if they wanted to go to the park and they um-ed and ah-ed for a bit and by the time they decided they wanted to, it was too late. I let them have an hour of screens tonight. They’ve been so good and they were really getting bored after nearly 4 days without any. There was a strict warning that any bickering over shows or whining when it was time to turn it off would result in no telly until Monday (yeah right, like I could get through a weekend without them having ANY screen time!) but the threat did the trick and they were fine.

Friday
Back to normal this morning. Youngest awake at 7am but got dressed as soon as he got up so I was happy to let him watch his shows until 8am. Again, no arguments and they were both out the door on time and without shouting. I have warned them not to expect the same levels of screens as they were enjoying before but with warmer weather and lighter evenings they won’t want to watch as much anyway.

I was worried that the youngest’s imagination wasn’t very well developed but he’s shown me this week he’s got a cracking imagination when he chooses to use it. I thought I would get less work done in the afternoons/evenings if the boys were around wanting attention but actually it was about the same, which shows how unproductive that time of day is for me anyway (I am probably too busy on Pinterest and Twitter). There has been infinitely less shouting and arguing amongst the boys. It seems most of their arguing is the youngest wanting to watch what the oldest is doing online or his iPod, or the oldest getting impatient with the youngest when they play together on the Wii, so taking them out of the equation has led to a much calmer house this week.

So that’s how our screen detox went. Have you ever done something similar? If so, what were the results?

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