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Benefits of Less Screen Time For Kids

What Happened When My Entire Family Unplugged For a Week

My family loves their devices. My 7-year-old frequently sneaks into my office to play video games (a big no-no!), while my 5-year-old browses Netflix and cracks my passwords all by herself. My husband is just as bad, cooking dinner while wearing earbuds and watching movies on his Android at the same time. I often find myself desperately waving my hands or jumping up and down trying to get their attention, but I'm also not totally innocent.

I'm the first to admit I have a serious cell phone addiction. I probably log into Facebook five or six times a day, check my emails more frequently than I care to admit, and scroll through Instagram for far too long. I try to resist, but knowing I have the ability to check my status updates with the touch of a button often prevents me from giving my kids the undivided attention they deserve.

We slept better (no one climbed into my bed at midnight!), the kids threw fewer tantrums, and we all had more energy.

So, one night during dinner, I proposed a radical idea. No TV, no iPads, no Androids, and no cell phones. My entire family would unplug for one week. Our home would be a tech-free zone. At first, everyone baulked and looked at me as though I had lost my mind. But, eventually, the kids came around with promises of board games and family movie nights. My husband, however, was much harder to convince. Finally, after lots of begging and pleading, he agreed to play along.

The first day was definitely the easiest. My daughter had a new arts and crafts kit she had saved for the occasion, so the kids made felt bookmarks, googly-eye bugs, and pipe cleaner monsters all afternoon. When the novelty finally wore off, they had an early dinner, changed into pyjamas, and snuggled under the covers reading stories with me until bedtime. We were all incredibly relaxed . . . at least until morning.

Everyone woke up extremely grumpy the next day about the "no TV or iPad" rule. Thankfully, my son had his first Little League game of the season, which offered a welcome distraction. We all cheered him on at the opening day ceremony before taking the kids out for pizza. Feeling refreshed and energized, we headed outside after lunch to ride bikes around our neighbourhood, play catch, and race scooters. We even squeezed in a trip to the playground later that weekend, although we didn't stay as long as I had hoped given the unseasonably cold temperatures.

There was another brief reprieve during a play date at my son's friend's house where I allowed the kids to watch YouTube, simply because I found it too taxing to explain to an 8-year-old why my family had to avoid all screen time. But, that one blip aside, we stayed strong and remained tech-free for the entire week. As our family experiment drew to a close, I noticed that we all slept better (no one climbed into my bed at midnight!), the kids threw fewer tantrums, and we all had more energy at the end of the day.

Although I really enjoyed spending so much time together, I don't think it's realistic in this day and age to keep my kids living in a tech-free bubble. That said, I will make more of an effort to turn my phone off (or at least turn it on vibrate), set timers for device-using windows, and have my husband cut back on his technology when we're all together. The family time we experienced during that week was oh so sweet, and I want to make sure we have more of it (even if that means hiding my husband's Android).

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