I’ve been following the trends and research about screen use and have long been an advocate of unplugging. I’ve seen firsthand the benefits of unplugging each summer at camp and have fought back in my own family to rescue us from being sucked into our screens 24/7.
Yet I’ve still struggled with myself and my kids — when we’re not at camp — getting us off our screens consistently. It’s easy to get sucked back into the screen vortex as soon as summer ends. And it’s not just the kids. I, too, get easily back into the too-much-screen-time habit.
Limiting screen use is my top parenting headache, especially with my teenage sons. I get a lot of pushback, even about plugging in the devices at night (something everyone agreed to in their signed phone contracts).
“No one else has to put away their phones at night,” is one of the common responses I get from my high schoolers when I remind them it’s time to go offline.
This fall, I’m changing tactics. Instead of creating more rules and guidelines for screen use (although I’ll still enforce the current ones and be a stickler about the one hour before bedtime offline rule), I’m going to focus on creating more positive, screen-free events for our family that making getting off our screens seem more like fun and less like a restriction or punishment.
In addition to family dinner, which is my favorite daily unplugged time, we’ll also have designated screen-free family time either for part or all of one weekend day or a few evenings each week.
I’ll let the kids come up with the activities, so they get to choose. The only requirement will be that there are no screens involved. So, our weekly watching of The Flash, while still a fun family event, will not be counted toward screen-free family time.
Ideas I’ll suggest include playing a game (Settlers of Catan and Exploding Kittens are current favorites), going for a hike or bike ride, playing tennis, swimming, gardening, walking the dog, or cooking together.
But I’ll go along with whatever they decide they want to do — as long as we’re together and no screens are involved!
Because connecting with each other is the most important thing we do in our family, and connection happens much better when we’re unplugged.