A few years back when I was writing for a regional bimonthly Home Birth magazine I wrote an article about the decision to turn off the TV and go (as much as possible) TV free. At the time it was the best decision we ever made. That was the year before we made the decision to home school. The difference in our children was amazing and remarkable. I do still hold the opinion that not too much can come out of TV watching even though we aren't essentially a TV free household anymore. The kids don't watch nearly as much TV as they have done in the past but they still love a good movie watching session and do watch some TV in the early hours of the morning as I refuse to get up as early as they do.
TV is a time waster or should I say a time robber, it robs us of time, a lot of time before we even know it. The invention of MySky (TiVO?) has probably contributed to more time watching TV as it enables us to record multiple programmes to watch at a later date. Later??? that time later has to come from somewhere.
We took the Xbox and the computer away a few months back after battle after battle with the amount of time wasted on said machines. It wasn't necessarily the amount of time that each child was playing on them, it was the time wasted by watching someone else playing them too. Over time we noticed the increase in fights between the children and the stress levels while playing them. I knew in my heart that these two things weren't good for our family but I didn't know how to stop it. Whenever they didn't have them on the kids were bored and didn't know what to do with themselves which resulted in more fighting. And any parent will know that fighting between siblings has the potential to drive you insane. It all came to a head one day and both were taken away for an indefinite amount of time. Do they miss them? Yes they did, at first. It was like I had pulled all their teeth out. Our family during that time was hard work. But over time they have gotten use to it and now are quite happy without them. Yes they still get the computer to use for school work since some of their work is via on line progammes. The ability to play once again using their imagination is on the rise. They play outside more (even when its wet and cold). They ride their bikes more, play board games more, play in the sandpit more and climb trees more. The fighting is slowly decreasing. Yes I am well aware that that may never disappear but one can live in hope.
My struggle was an internal one. No parent wants to deprive their children from fun and things that make them happy. No parent purposely wants them to be missing out. But missing out on what? Watching someone else play an onscreen game or build an imaginary village using blocks or running from digital zombies or ninja assassins. I can almost hear people saying "Won't they be left behind?" or "Its the way of the future!" or "They are allowed a little fun" or "Its their down time, they need time to relax". I hear you. I do and I have said those things too. I have read countless research both for and against gaming and screen time and I have to admit that the 'for' research is pretty darn convincing and made me feel better for a time about having it available for them. In reality those things weren't and aren't good for our family. One of my boys in particular can be quite obsessive about the Xbox and computer and the more he had screen time the more difficult his behavior became.
Jaydens 10th Birthday was an Xbox party!
Two big screens, eight players (four against four)
It was fun and he had a ball!!
|Please excuse the quality of the photo.|
Just so you know the amount of screen time they had wasn't excessive in my opinion by any means. The Xbox use to come out only on Sunday afternoons and they were allowed an hour on the computer whenever they were on packing and unpacking the dishwasher for the day (that's once every five days!). But slowly over time (so slowly in fact that it went unnoticed) it became more frequent and the "special occasions" for the Xbox seemed to be coming around more and more. The kids had started (very cleverly too I might add) bartering for screen time too. They would offer to do such and such a job if they could have half an hour, an hour on the Xbox. At first we thought sweet we can have a tidy house or the car washed or the bathroom cleaned all for an hour of screen time. Perhaps we felt a little guilty as we haven't been able to pay them pocket money for a good two and half years now that this could be payment of sorts. After a while (and I am almost embarrassed to admit this) but the idea started turning on us and often we would ask them to do a job and they would immediately say "Can I have a turn on the Xbox then?" That is not good parenting at all. The other negative thing as we found that every conversation they had among themselves or with other people was revolving around gaming, about what they had built or an epic battle, and quotes and words they came out with was from games they have played. It wasn't good at all. Really going cold turkey was the best and the only way, there was no possible way we could wean it off them gradually. So cold turkey it was. Oh boy was that hard. Even now I have to admit I miss it at times as it was a sure fire way to keep them quiet and entertained for a while, especially on a rainy day. Will they make a comeback? I am not sure, that is yet to be decided. Its coming into winter soon and winter here is pretty damp and cold.
In saying all this, I too felt the conviction to cut down on screen time especially while the kids are around and seeing me. I feel like a hypocrite if I ban it from them and yet sit looking at a screen for one reason or another. Solution; do the majority of my writing at night after they are in bed or get up extra early and write then (that one isn't going to happen in a hurry). I don't want my children to grow up remembering the shape of the back of my head or me answering them '"I'm busy" while they know very well that I am not. Its a hard habit to break. There is more living to do for everyone outside and away from screens. I want to live more, Don't you? God has been challenging me on clearing out stuff that robs me of my time and my peace and while screen time was the first to go there is plenty more things to get rid of and clear out. It feels good to have started. I'll keep you informed about my progress. (or un-progress) I am determined to be ruthless!!! (but I may need a hand)
What do you need to get rid of in your life?