Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Turned Off and Tuned In

Not all of my kids understand clocks and calendars yet. Some are just too young to get it. They have unique senses of time, measured by the regular activities of a day- the routine of waking up and having breakfast, doing certain chores and the rhythm of meals and snacks. They differentiate days by what major events happen on them. Friday everyone loves because it's the day we watch a movie and eat pizza in the living room. It's Pizza Day. Saturday is Daddy-Stays-Home Day. Sunday is Church Day. Monday is Co-op Day and Library Day. Tuesday is Piano Lessons Day, Wednesday is Garbage Day.  Tomorrow is Thursday. Thursday used to be sort of a day without an event. They would be confused about Thursdays because nothing really notable was on our plans for Thursdays. Until recently. In my house now Thursday means "No Screens Day".

Most days the rule is simply that we won't watch any movies or play any video games or computers until after lunch, chores, and schoolwork are completed. This leads to an every afternoon movie time. In the cold months, it was tolerable. But now as I look forward to the Spring I want to get them outside more. Plus, I just think they're too vegged out which leads to poor attitudes and bad relationships. So to ease us into the good weather, I've declared No Screens Thursday. The beauty of it is that they expect it's coming and they know that no begging will get them screen time, so they let it go. I have exceptions, like word processing or drawing on the computer, maybe a typing tutor, but only for limited amounts of time and even then usually I will ask them to come up with something else to do.

It's difficult to limit screen time for my kids because a movie is 2hrs long and if they just get a half hour each on the computer, but all watch one another, it adds up to another 2hrs. That's 4 waking hours a day! And longer if I don't stick to the timer, or a second movie choice goes in or they watch another one with Dad later. We don't have cable or anything, but just a DVD player and a few 'educational' computer games is enough to keep them staring. And basically turn them into bickering zombies. I give in more to it in the winter, and it got especially bad this time because I was so morning sick last fall and we got into a rut of keeping the movies going so the little ones wouldn't hang off me while I was sick. There must have been a better way. But I admit, I just let it get bad.

Now I have to back our way out of this bad habit again.

The first couple of Thursdays they got up dejected and not knowing what to do with themselves, but they adapted and now find all kinds of toys and games and reading and activities and imaginative play and arts and crafts. Their Thursdays are really excellent days. I plan on extending this to No Screens Tuesdays as well, and this summer using Tues and Thurs as park days. I may declare a 3rd day no screens too, until half the week cuts off the vegging out.

I don't have too many issues with technology per se. I think it's pretty swell. But as someone who struggled with somewhat of a social internet addiction for a spell, I think I'd like my kids to have a healthier view of technology as something that serves them as needed rather than as something they can't live without. I'm hoping that by replacing the screens gradually with happy time away from screens they will make better choices for their time of their own volition, and ultimately use technology purposefully rather than being slaved to it, sitting... Idol.

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