I hate screens.
I don't know if I've ever mentioned that, but I really do. Why? There are several reasons.
- They waste a lot of time without the time passing in a noticeable and concrete way. It vanishes like smoke.
- They steal attentions while giving the illusion of multi-tasking. Even though you think you're paying attention to the person talking to you while checking your email, you aren't. Ultimately, you don't give your full attention to either and do a poor job at both.
- They make people in my family grumpy. My daughter has a noticeably shorter temper when there's a screen visible. She can't touch them or interact with them, so to her, they are attention-sucking machines that separate her from her parents and friends. She's tries to distract us, then we're grumpy because we were in the middle of something.
What counts as a screen? Anything with a light. Cell phones, the television, the laptop, etc.
If you do some research, you'll learn that even teenagers shouldn't be, say, watching television for more than two hours a day. That's less than most babies watch, and I think two hours is plenty even for me. And I didn't even touch the time spend on computers or phones. It's a lot, and I don't want my family to get sucked into that world.
So I started with myself. What better way to teach my daughter healthy use of technology than to use it wisely myself? Here is what I do to keep my screen time low.
I do have a smart phone, but I only use it for calls, texting, and weather. There isn't even an email app (yes, I went so far as to delete the pre-downloaded app provided with the phone. I'm hardcore, that way).
The cell phone stays in the coat closet unless I'm using it or travelling, in which case it stays in my purse. Not my pocket. Not my hand or lap. Not the seat next to me. I leave it in the car when I arrive to my destination. It's purely for emergencies. At home, I check it about every three hours. The only time it makes sound is for a phone call. Texts only cause it to vibrate, so I don't even know when I get them. If there's an emergency, no one is going to text me.
At nighttime, it's by my bed for two reasons. First, if there's a break in, I want it close. Second, it's our alarm clock. I don't use it for any other purpose in our bedroom except to hit "dismiss" when the alarm goes off.
I use my computer only when my daughter is sleeping, which limits me to her nap time, around 11 AM, and her bedtime. If I'm spending time with my husband, it is closed. If I'm not using it, I hide it out of sight. Out of sight, out of mind.
We don't have cable, so we only watch what we have or rent from the library. We watch something two nights a week. Since we start our bedtime rituals at 9 PM on the dot, we never watch more than 2 1/2 hours at a time. I can be so precise because we don't watch TV if our daughter is awake, and she goes to bed at 6:30 PM.
If you will take a moment to do a little math with me, I watch an average of 4-6 hours of TV per week (more than 20 hours less than the average person my age), I use my cell phone maybe ten or fifteen minutes a day (I've never been much of a texter), and I usually use my computer less than an hour per day.
What is this like? It's so freeing. I do a lot of reading, which is something I want my daughter to spend a couple hours a day doing. I want to model good habits, and I feel fresher for it.
What are some ways you model for your children?