If you are an Apple-user, then your mobile device is giving you weekly stats of the time you are spending on your phone. If you are like me, it’s probably a lot. I find myself picking up the phone unnecessarily, even when there is no notification. That, combined with the number of hours spent on my laptop or watching the television, equals too much screen time. Statistics show that we spend around nine hours looking at our screens every day.
My daughter has also picked up on our habits. She either wants to watch Cocomelon or Little Baby Bum on my phone or laptop numerous times a day.
If your family has similar traits, then we probably need screen time cleansing.
April 29 till May 5, 2019, was the screen-free week. This is the week where families are encouraged to turn off their devices, and “turn on life”. This means no cellphones, no iPad, no TV, and no gaming. This excludes work.
Why would your family need a screen-free week?
Young kids don’t know how to play outdoors anymore. I remember the joy of leaving the house after having breakfast during school holidays and only coming back home when I was hungry. Our kids prefer sitting in front of the Xbox playing video games the whole day.
Two-year-olds now know how to navigate smartphones that don’t even belong to them. It’s cute, but it is also concerning because we end up not having the freedom to use our phones as we please without them crying for it. This is why we end up spending money buying them devices at a young age.
Screens can be very distracting. Even as an adult, sometimes I opt to watch YouTube instead of doing actual work. So it must be even more so for a school-going kid with heaps of homework. The brain can easily gravitate towards something enjoyable rather than productive. And when that phone is right next to your books, your child can be on that rather than doing their work.
The most important reason why you would need a screen-free week is to help your family talk to each other again. When do you even get the time to bond as a family when you are at work the whole day, and everyone is on their screens in the evening?
So, how would screen-free work for you and your family?
You would first need to prepare, a lot. It is not going to be easy trying to eliminate something we have grown so dependent on. I use my phone for everything. It is my clock, my alarm, my radio, my dictionary, my book, my television, and so much more. So you would need to plan as a family what you would be doing for that week. Don’t take it a day at a time. Have an actual itinerary of what you could do. Google it.
The family could go out and by some art supplies that they could play with during the week. You could google some cool supplies to get if your family is not too artsy.
Nothing brings the family together like board games. So, if you don’t have, go stock up on some cool games like Monopoly, What do you Meme, Jumanji, 5-second rule, and Scrabble. There are other cool options that you can purchase, depending on what excites your family.
You could even get some Lego games, and we know how the little ones love Lego. They probably even have the toys already but haven’t had the opportunity to play it with their parents.
List activities you would like to do
Go fishing, camping, or picnicking. You could go to a museum and have a history lesson. Soweto has awesome historical sites like the Hector Peterson Museum and Nelson Mandela’s house. Take the kids to Vilakazi street to have a taste of the tourist experience.
Look up some cooking and baking recipes that you have wanted to try in a long time. This is the perfect time to try it out together as a family.
You can also have a list of books you have wanted to read for a long time but just haven’t had the opportunity to. This is it.
What would we get out of the screen-free week as a family?
It is so easy to lose touch with people that you live under the same roof when everyone is consumed with their own devices. Doing things together as a family is a beautiful way of bonding. Talking to each other and sharing a laugh is a step in the right direction when trying to re-connect with your partner and kids.
One never truly listens when they are distracted by Facebook or e-mails. Now, the family has each other’s undivided attention and can talk and laugh without being distracted.
Less sibling rivalry
Today’s rivalries are usually over remotes, gaming consoles or iPads. A week without them is a week without the kids fighting over them.
Explore other interests
Maybe your kids love cooking but have never really explored that because they have been so consumed with technology. This would, therefore, help them explore other interests outside what they already know.
Learn real play
Sitting in front of the Xbox the whole day is not play. Running outside the house the whole day and getting dirty is real play. This would, therefore, allow the kids to explore the outdoors a little bit more and rediscover what we mean as adults when we say ‘play’.
This is not impossible; it is just challenging. We have become so accustomed to just sitting in front of our laptops even on our off days and binging our favourite series. As long as the kids are clean and fed, they can also entertain themselves with the wifi and their video games. This requires some serious commitment from all parties involved.
The kids and your partner will probably moan about it for the first few days, but they will soon adjust, and maybe even start enjoying it.