In the last couple of years, I've really begun to notice how our family is becoming more and more addicted to screen time. I was going to write "my kids" here...but in all honesty, it applies to me too.
My son loves to play computer games. He plays them alone, with his sister or even in an online game with his friends from primary school. It seems they all have tablets and computers nowadays. Though I steadfastly refuse to even consider getting him a smartphone.
My daughter, a teenager, is more interested in texting, YouTube and Netflix. After school, if I let her, she'll be FaceTiming her friends or texting them in a group chat. Instagram is a favourite these days, too.
And me? I'm certainly not guilt-free. Working from home, I often find myself distracted - checking work emails, flicking through Instagram or looking at my Facebook page. I try to justify this, as it's my job and pays the bills.....but hand-on-heart, it's not really setting a good example, is it?
Nor does it seem that our family is alone in this...
A survey of 1,000 mums (with kids aged 2-12 years) found that 85% used technology to engage their kids whilst they got on with other activities. The survey, by AO.com, suggested that children spent an average of 17 hours looking at screens per week. Source
Thinking of ideas how to tackle this hasn't been easy. Many ideas have tried and failed. For example, limiting them to one hour doesn't work - mainly because I just don't have the will power, the patience or the energy to police it.
So what did work?
Gadget - free Sunday mornings has been our first successful foray into combatting the addictive effects of screen time.
So, how does it work?
In theory it's pretty simple - no electronics before 12pm on a Sunday. That means no TV, no smartphone, no emails and definitely no tablets.
For the first couple of weeks, I did meet some resistance. The kids would watch the clock...just itching to know what they were missing, what show was on TV or what their friends were doing. However, best of all - just occasionally - they were bored. I revelled in the fact that they were experiencing childhood as we had known it in our day. That they had to think up their own forms of entertainment - talk to each other, talk to me, communicate, draw, write, make, create, or go outside to play. Or keeping it simple, just stay in bed and read a book!
And now? It's pretty much become routine. There's no arguments or complaints from anyone.
I so look forward to our Sunday mornings. We regularly have a leisurely breakfast together, often eating muffins or pain au chocolate warm out of the oven. Then they'll draw or read or create - as in the cardboard den my son made above. Or we'll get up early and head out for a walk to the lakes (Crummock Water above), for a swim or to watch my son play hockey.
Oh, and not to forget the added bonus - a lie-in. With no screens to look at, or text messages to check, the kids almost always sleep in....just perfect.
As for the rest of the week....that's a work in progress. But for now...roll on the weekend.
I hope you find our tips useful and I would love to hear if you have carved out any time in your week to go "gadget-free". Or maybe you have some tips that you could share for the rest of the week....