Presented by Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood, the annual Screen-Free Week event has been staunchly and steadily encouraging parents to minimize the time young children spend in front of TV/Video games/Computers/iPad screens.
For the 5th year in a row, I am happy to be writing about Screen-Free Week that has freed up so much time for kids everywhere so they can pursue their many talents and interests without passively vegetating.
Just as we have been doing in the last decade or more , we are doing nothing special for the Screen-Free Week for kids this year simply because, "School Days/Weekdays are not Watch days" in our house. Keep it simple. No complicated rules that are subject to parental whims.
To set a good example, the adults at home don't watch TV on weekdays either -- year-round, not just one week in May. [At least, not while kids are awake. If watching happens past kids' bedtime it is entirely up to the parents to be comfortable and/or discreet about it. Besides the obvious benefit for the kids, it is has been a huge relief for me as a parent to have set and adhered to a specific bedtime for kids right from their infancy, despite the struggles that came with enforcing it.]
The tougher decision these days for parents seems to stem from iPad and other handheld devices that offer a number of games and streaming shows with effortless access. It is wonderful if kids have a self-timer and have enough self-control to limit their iPad/game times. In case they don't, a kitchen timer comes in handy. There will be struggles some days when the timer goes off and their turn is done, but kids are not done with the game they are playing currently and want extra time to "win this level, just this level, please?" I've been anything from strict put-it-away-right-now military sergeant to fine-do-what-you-want lenient mom in this regard based on what else has been going on in kids' lives [and mine] that day, that week...
Knowing that I spend hours in front of a computer during my work days, it has been easier to consciously unplug when I sign off from work in the evenings. Having succumbed to the wiles of Temple Run, Candy Soda Crush Saga, PVZ, Power of 2, Trivia, Two Dots, Tetris Blitz, Scramble et al at various times, I can understand how hard it can be to switch off for kids. And that is precisely what helped: Switch OFF the device and stow it away, and engage in the next chosen activity - be it playing board games or dancing or reading aloud a favorite poem by Shel Silverstein...
Uninstalling Facebook App and turning off Notifications from FB Messenger and other apps, plus putting the smartphone on Do Not Disturb mode for 3 hours every evening around dinner has worked well for Conscious Disengagement. By finding strategies that work for me, it is easier to help my kids with strategies to disentangle themselves from any screen-dependencies, should they arise as they grow older. It is much more musical for me to hear, "Mama is busy cooking/reading/gardening, so she is not available now," than, "Mama is staring at her iPhone and won't respond to me now."
[image source: http://www.screenfree.org/]