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March 18, 2014

Screen-Free Times in Our House

I have a very close relationship with my smart phone~ There are numerous reasons why it is so incredibly helpful to me! It is not just my phone. It is my cookbook...It is my camera...It is my #1 tool for shopping/selling...It is my personal assistant. It houses my to-do list, my calendar, my grocery list, my reading/listening material, etc. However, there are certain times of day - in our house - that are completely screen-free, and today I want to share a little bit about what that looks like for our family.

Screen-Free Times in Our House

Meal Times
Whether at home or out to eat, our eating table is screen-free. There are occasions when I will snap a picture of an especially delicious-looking meal, but other than that, our phones are silenced and put away, and we focus on talking...out each other.

When Hosting Guests
When we host guests - whether it is simply for a meal or for a weekend - our phones are silenced and placed out of reach. During this time, our oldest does not have access to his tablet. We want him to learn to interact with visitors, so we use this time for training him in this area. A couple of his grandparents recently visited with us - for the entire week, he did not play with his tablet...he did not watch cartoons...he spent time with his grandparents. He does not get to see them often, so I want him to spend time with them!

When Hubby Arrives Home
When hubby arrives home from work, I try to greet him without a phone in my hand. I can not promise him that I will not be crying the kids will not be crying, but I typically try to have dinner either in the oven or the playing rather than the television blaring...a candle burning rather than dinner get the idea.

During Our Kids' Bathtime/Bedtime Routine
Bathtime/bedtime is one of our favorite times of day! This is 110% family time - It can be wild and crazy, but it is usually a lot of fun. We play - We laugh - We read - We sing - We say prayers - We give loads of hugs and kisses.

On the Weekends
Our oldest has never grown accustomed to watching television. Other than watching bits and pieces of a few different shows here and there, tv is not a regular part of his routine. He does, however, enjoy [educational] screen time on his tablet, but on the weekends, we put his screen away and focus on being together.

Short Car Trips
When taking a long road trip, we pack Caleb's tablet. We usually plan to travel during times when he will sleep, but the tablet can be a nice backup plan for when that backfires. However, when traveling around town, his techie toys do not come along for the ride. Yes, there was a time when I judged the mom in IKEA who was letting her child watch a movie on his tablet - while she shopped. If I saw that mom again, I would hug her and tell her, "You're doing a great job! What other tips do you have for surviving the nightmare of taking children to IKEA?" Desperate times call for desperate measures. I get it, but typically, if we are not far from home, we are screen-free.

During Family Activities
Especially on the weekends, we love to take family walks, play outside, go to the park, try new restaurants, etc. and - except for using my phone to snap photos - these times together are screen-free. You've seen the families out to know the ones I'm talking about...where everyone in the family is playing on their phone. It makes me very, very sad to see that.

90% of the time, the volume on my phone is turned completely off - This oftentimes means I do not see calls, texts, e-mails, etc. as soon as they come through to my phone; but this allows me to check them and respond at times when I am able to reply. I do not want the constant noise. I do not want my family-time interrupted. In our house, we are protective of our time together. We make no apologies for this. We are intentional about making weekends [especially] about investing in each other.
As our children grow older, I realize that our approach to this issue will require some adjustment. I understand that their interests will develop and change, and that will require reevaluation and flexibility on our part; but I always want their priorities to involve faith, family, friends, activity...not screens. I want them to feel the freedom that comes with being "unplugged". I want them to live lives that involve doing not watching. I want them to know that joy that comes with spending their time investing not wasting.
While I realize that each home...each family dynamic...each child's personality is different, I want to challenge you (if you haven't already) to establish some screen-free times/screen-free zones in your house. While everyone in your house may attempt to revolt and possibly suffer from withdraws [literally!], I promise you will be glad you established boundaries in this area - what a difference it can make.

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