Last weekend we were blessed to spend a couple of days at our favorite hot spring retreat, far from the pull of the internet, out of cell phone range. We arrived home, refreshed and re-connected. As we moved from car to
house, the first thing from the mouths of the Little-Bugs was “Can we have our computer time now?”. We hadn't been home 10 minutes when the begging and screen negotiations (and related temper-fits) began anew. Somehow they gained the impression that missing two days of computer time entitled them to extra the moment we got home. Up in the woods they ran and hiked, soaked in hot springs, walked a labyrinth, engaged is fun word games, talked with friends of all ages… And it felt like none of that fun, outdoor adventure made it home with them.
Papa-Bug and I have been talking recently about the dominant role that screens play in our lives. We are pulled into the latest on Facebook, Twitter, or whatever, too often ignoring childish babbling in favor of our screens. The kids mimic us. We turn quickly to an iPhone or movie when parenting is just too much. While we have nothing against the many uses of iPhones, iPads, and movies, it's feeling out of control. It's time to detox and cut the cord for a little while.
Papa-Bug found this excellent article about disconnecting. We love the idea of making sure that good things are filling our time instead of stressing about too much screen time; considering a change of focus. Our interest in reclaiming our time from our media devices dovetails nicely with TV Turn-Off Week (4/28-5/4).
Last year TV Turn-Off week was not a big deal for the kids, but it still lead me to consider screens in our reality. It was clear to me that simply turning off the TV really isn't enough anymore.
We've been going over our screen use, evaluating what is and isn't practical. As much as I would like to just lock all the screen tools in a drawer for the week, that would leave me without a phone and camera. Maybe someday that will be okay, but not just yet. However, we do have a plan.
The Digital Frame – switching it off.
The TV – unplugged.
The iPad – put away in a drawer for the week.
The Laptop – going to hang out with the iPad.
The E-Book – Papa-Bug will reserve it for reading at work, keeping that screen use out of sight from the Little-Bugs.
The iPod – for music only, no games and (in the case of the iPhones) no streaming! Have to listen to what we've got on there.
The iPhones – these are the tricky ones, right? Undoubtably screens, certainly easy and compelling. But they house our phones, our mutual calendar, our cameras… We are going to retain them as phones and cameras, switching them off the wi-fi and data for the week. We will still be able to text, and call. We can listen to music or take pictures. But that's all. Basic functionality.
I'm also going to dig out the digital camera, and try to use it instead of the phone. Maybe I will teach the kids how to use the view finder!
(On a weird side note, Brother-Bug uses his toy iPhone to constantly play imaginary video games. He'll sit with it for hours, re-creating Angry Bird noises. He will be under the same rules as we are – he may use his toy phone for calls and pictures. No video games, even imaginary.)
The blogs, Twitter feeds, Facebook streams, and Instagram accounts are going dark. When we come back, hopefully it is with a sense of what we do and do not need from these devices, what we do want to do with our time – digital and otherwise, and a clearer sense of how to shape our relationships with screens instead of allowing our brains to slip into all-to-easy patterns.
It has been an interesting exercise over the past week, noticing all the little things I use my phone and tablet
for. Research, recipes, the grocery list, the phone book… For myself, I think I am going to miss Instagram the most…or maybe the online Mama group that helps keep me feeling sane and connected. It's hard to say and will be interesting to explore.
Tomorrow morning we will wake up screen free. No Facebook to check or Instagram picture to share. Over breakfast I hope to make a list with the kids of things we can do instead of computer time – projects inspired or long put off.
I'll be back in a week or so, to report on our adventures and findings. In the meantime, have a good week!