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The Yin and Yang of a 30 Day Screen Experiment

The word of week two is balance.

As parents, we always expect the unexpected, and we have to flow with whatever comes our way. During week two, we were surprised with not one, but two school projects that my son had to start and finish during the week. I’d also forgotten about my daughter’s last Girl Scouts meeting – and that I’d volunteered to be the awards announcer for said meeting.

Being insanely busy does help cut the screen time to a minimum. However, it also makes those veg moments in front of a game or movie even more enticing. The allure of the screen calls to us, and this week was about knowing when to fight the urge, and when to give in.

Balancing Acts

When one child has two projects that threaten to usurp an entire week’s worth of after-school time, the question in the screen-dependent household becomes obvious. What do I do with the idle child while I’m helping the other with schoolwork?

We faltered with this problem over the course of the week, and chose to look the other way. My daughter happily played her computer games while chatting on Skype as we turned my son into John F. Kennedy for his social studies project. I also know that my son enjoyed a few too many episodes of Pokémon while I was at my daughter’s Girl Scouts meeting.

However, these moments are not fully representative of the week. There were hours spent playing board games. I read an entire novel, and the kids did some reading, too. My daughter worked on shading techniques in her sketchpad, and my son spent some time enjoying unseasonably cool weather playing outside. We went to the park, enjoyed our ice-skating Saturday and even got to visit with some friends.

I’ll consider the week successful, though I’m still thinking of options for encouraging choices outside the screen when one child is commanding our attention. The more I ponder this thought, the more the answer is clear, and goes right back to the original idea for this challenge: Lead by example.

Setting an Example

I deactivated my Facebook account.

You heard that right. It’s disabled.

I uninstalled the application from my phone, moved my web browser off my main app screen, and went into my computer and removed all references to the Facebook links from my browser history and quick links.

I realized that my Facebook use had become a compulsive habit. What’s worse is that it brought me little joy. In fact, after a week without Facebook I can unequivocally state that the site had become a significant source of stress in my life. Moreover, it not only filled my otherwise-idle moments – it consumed my thoughts. When I realized just how invasive it had become, I knew it was time to cut the cord.

My daughter asked why I disengaged from Facebook, and I told her it took too much of my time. She asked if I’d miss the interaction with my friends. My answer is no, because I still interact, just in different and much more personal ways.

However, I still feel the pull in quiet moments. Today, I waited in the car while my husband ran into the store, and I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself in those few moments.

I settled on doing absolutely nothing. I watched people wander in and out of the store. My kids laughed in the back of the car, and I giggled along with them. We made silly jokes.

The funny thing was that they were on screens!

I thought maybe they should put them away, but they were in a heated battle of Crossy Road – who could score higher. In observing, I realized that they were interacting. We were on our way to a picnic in the park, and I knew they’d be without screens for several hours. I chose to allow them those few minutes of screen-assisted, goofy fun.

We spent our day at the park eating and playing with friends. They never once asked for screens. Even on the drive home, we talked and laughed about our day.

Little Successes Add Up

The slow disengage from the screens is having an effect. Both of my kids are eagerly anticipating our next rounds of Descent and our planned Pokémon battles. I see my kids choosing toys over screens here and there, more than before. They ask to play games, or draw. There’s more communication happening.

It’s subtle. It’s slight. But it’s movement in a positive direction.

This week, my goal is more disengagement on a personal level, including journaling and breaking out the art supplies.

I can honestly say that I was neurotic about this challenge two weeks ago. Would I really disengaged? How much was enough? What if the kids don’t follow my lead? How far do I really have to take this?

Much of that worry is gone. There are times when screen use happens. Then there are those moments when we find and enjoy our alternatives. I feel the pendulum swinging in that latter direction, and I’m excited for what this next week will bring!

True_Guowei via pixabay cc

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