A TV Fast
On Saturday morning, guys, I kind of lost it.
Stella had been asking and asking and asking and asking and asking for her screen time. She was unable to focus on anything other than when exactly the next dose of blue light would stream into her eyeballs. She wouldn’t play, or read, or do anything. She glued herself to my side, whined and whined and whined and whined for TV.
This went on for about, uuuuuuhhh, forever, until the top blew off my head.
I did the unthinkable. I canceled TV for that morning. Like, I followed through with what is usually an empty threat. No TV. None at all. Not even while I put Hugo down for a nap. And holy smokes, you guys, you should have seen the tantrum.
I thought to myself, this can not be. This is not the normal response to a loss of privilege. This is like the erratic yo-yo-ing of a a cocaine addict locked in some cabin on a lake without access to stimulants any stronger than, like, camomile tea or something.
I was so concerned about my kid’s reaction that I decided we needed to act.
So. We are on a screen detox.
Which, ahahahahah, right? I’m writing a blog post, so how detoxifying can this detox really be? But, I’m actually not at home, so the rules don’t apply, right? And also I’ m the mum, so am toooootally above the law. ;)
But really, when I am at home, the phone is away, used solely for important text messages, the odd phone call, and perhaps for goggling a recipe at dinner. The other day I went to the playground for like three hours and left my phone at home. I didn’t even miss it. I know, right????
Without the constant pings of social media and the little swoosh of email, I’m less distracted. It’s freeing, really. I am finding myself more centred and more present with my children. My patience has been extended by a few stops.
But the real benefits have been for Stella. The difference was almost immediate.
For as long as we’ve known her, she’s been an intense kid, needing constant attention and entertainment. She’s never been willing to play by herself. She has a wonderfully rich imagination, and adores pretend play. But, she’ll only weave stories and act out parts if another person is engaging with her. The moment there is a lull in the day’s stimulation, she’s lost, circling me whining about boredom, and hunger, and when her next fix of TV will come.
Almost immediately after she understood that we would not waver about the TV ban, she got out her Peppa Pig set, and started acting out little mini narratives with George and Peppa. And then she got some books, and, uuuuuhhhhh, just looked at pictures. Guys, I have never, like, NEVER seen her do this before. Just get some books down, sit cross-legged and read. Never.
Things have contented along this vein in the days since we’ve banned TV. She’s been playing by herself. She’s been looking at books. She’s been painting. She’s been colouring. She’s been building lego castles. She doesn’t ask for TV. And she hardly complains of being bored.
And as for me, since limiting my screen time at home, I’ve read a book. Like, an actual book, one with pages. I read an entire article in the New Yorker. I held the magazine in my hands and read. I’ve started having daily tea time with my kids. I’ve been thinking about big questions, journaling about my business, digging into things that I’ve been putting off. The more time I spend away from my little glowing screens, the more my attention expands, my mind settles, and things feel better. I miss my Facebook breaks, and I do wonder what’s going on with my Instagram friends. But life has felt a little calmer without the pull of Social Media.
For a long time I was of in denial about the impact screens were having on our lives. I didn’t want to look at the idea that Stella was watching too much TV, or that I was too attached to my phone. I mean, a Facebook notification gives a nice little hit of serotonin when you’re tired and bored and stuck in a tiny apartment with two kids. And it’s easier to turn on the TV than deal with a whiny kid when you’re trying to get dinner on the table.
But. Reality came flying at me as I watched my child panic at the thought of being denied her hit of screen time.
Screens are disconnecting. They are distracting. They kind of make you forget how to be a human who exists in the world.
I’m not saying that I’m ready to embrace a screen-free existence. Because I’m not. It is unrealistic to ban electronic media completely. It’s part of our modern world, and I want my kids to be media literate. Also, we regularly take long haul trips, and there’s noooooo way I’m doing those without and iPad. ;)
I’m not yet sure how and when we will reintroduce screen time. I like watching TV. I think that electronic media can and does have value. It can be art. You know? I want my kids to be able to enjoy and appreciate really wonderful movies and TV shows. Like, Ponyo - Amazing. Toy Story - A masterpiece. AndCharlie and Lola. Have you guys seen that show? It’s totally art.
My hunch is that when we reintroduce screens, it will have to be in very limited doses, with really clear and unwavering limits. Perhaps we’ll do a Friday night movie night. Or maybe TV on the weekends only. Or maybe one episode of something in the late afternoon. I’m not sure yet.
Have you guys dealt with screen overload? How do you guys deal with limits on TV?