Saturday, April 20, 2013
Our Screen-Free Kids: How and Why?
In case you missed my post about Screen-Free Week 2012, I'll just give another brief history of how we came to be (almost) screen-free. In 2009, after the birth of my first son (pictured above with his pool skimmer electric guitar with jump rope cord), my older brother sent me the book Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne. At that point in my life, I was going through some rough times, and the concepts presented in the book touched something within me. I just knew in my heart that I had to change in order to provide my son with better opportunities.
I made a conscious decision to change my life. I rid myself of debt and started reducing the amount of stuff around me. I gave away clothes that I hadn't worn in months; plastic toys, especially those that had noise and flashing lights were gone, too. I held onto only my most cherished knick-knacks and a tiny book collection that had helped shape me as a person. Even my husband, a self-proclaimed 'collector' gave away boxes of books, DVDs, Cd's, and video games. He also agreed to give up our 'living room tv'. I'll admit, getting him on board with the screen-free life for our son took some time, but after a few months watching our son develop at break-neck speed with only a floor to move around on and a few toys, he began to believe we were heading in the right direction.
Over the past three years, we have definitely acquired 'stuff', but we routinely purge clothing, toys, books, etc. to maintain a balance. I can tell simply by my son's behavior when it's time to clean house. We've slowly moved into a more Waldorf-Inspired home life, simply and beautifully described here.
I certainly don't expect other families to go completely screen-free, in this day and age, that's nearly impossible, but there are numerous studies out there that may convince some people that screens aren't right for young children. I'll leave it to experts to explain why: here and here. And there are many more studies and articles out there if you feel inclined to do some independent research.
Here is a basic look at our (almost) screen-free life:
- Our TV resides in my husband's office and is only used when the children are sleeping. We do not have cable. We do pay for Netflix and HuluPlus in case we are in the mood to watch something. I have favorite shows like everyone else; good storytelling is out there, I just don't need the junk on the other 200 channels. My husband is still an avid gamer, but he works nights and plays his games when he gets home and the rest of the family is sleeping.
- Neither of us has a smart phone. We have basic prepay phones for emergencies.
- Our children do not watch TV at home, and we try our best to avoid restaurants or other establishments that have TVs on every wall. Even our pediatrician's office has a TV in every room - I turn it off and we read the books they also provide.
- We do have a video camera and my lil guy is allowed to watch videos of himself or slide shows of pictures on the computer - this is a recent addition as he's become more curious about the computer.
- We both try our best not to use the computer for extended periods of time in front of the children. I get most of my work done in the morning before they wake up, at nap times and after bedtime, but there are times when it can't be avoided and that's part of living in a technological age - the internet is a useful resource.
I'm not sure how long we'll be able to keep our lil guy away from screens and we've already established a game plan should he begin to show intense interest - we do not want the TV or any other screen to become forbidden fruit, and we plan to teach moderation. For now, though, he's not interested, except to ask if other families watch TV and I always reply, "Some families do and some families don't. Our family doesn't." He seems satisfied with that response thus far.
I know there are people out there who swear up and down that TV and other screens don't cause any harm, and I'm no scientist, so I truly don't know for sure, I can only do what feels right for our family. Sometimes, I hear comments from other people, though, that help to solidify my faith in our choices. Just this week, we had a company come do some work in the house and my lil guy (always the chatterbox) began talking about the pretend game he was playing with a jump rope (his 'plugger') and part of an old flashlight (his microphone). After the work was done, the lil guy changed his props into tools to emulate the work that was just done in the house. This man, a complete stranger, looked at me and said, "He's got quite an imagination for such a young kid." Yes, yes, he does. Lack of screens? Perhaps. Perhaps not, but why risk it?