Early this year we spent a week glamping on a rural homestay with only the great outdoors for entertainment. Like all holidays having that week away from it all was very rejuvenating and when every day things aren’t present you find life can carry on.
It was very inspiring watching the children explore their surroundings and having the freedom to wander together around the grounds of this homestay. We could see and feel connection particularly between our oldest three and the age gap closing.
As I watched their friendships blossoming laughing and chatting together, I wondered how we could encourage more of that on our return. The only time they really spent together during the day was either before school or after school and at the weekend – and then it dawned on me. We had not had any TV or screen time the entire time we were away, so I wondered.. what if the TV was “broken” when we got home? I’ll be honest, my husband and I were slightly sceptical on how any of us would go with this however, no harm in trying a little experiment just to see.
I didn’t think we watched a lot but I knew we were all in a routine with it. After school when they were tired, I thought I would give them (and me) some “quiet” time while I did dinner. In the evenings after the kids had gone to bed, we could go one episode after another just sitting watching so tired yet so caught up in a storyline. At the weekends when it rained or when we wanted to get something done or even have some “quiet” time we would turn the TV on.
The biggest challenge we found with TV time was when it was turned off and the turmoil it brought to our home. I would give the 5 and 10 minute heads up dinner was ready or agree to the end of an episode. But it didn’t actually matter. It was like the TV had turned my tired children in to “something else”.
It’s been 11 months now and the impact this change has made on our family home life and our children has been quite significant.
By breaking the distraction (TV) therefore removing the routine (no TV) the creativity and connection both as a family and as a couple has strengthened. In the evenings my husband and I chat, debate, set goals and sometimes we might even solve a problem or two.
The kids connection with each other has really blossomed. Yes they still have gripes but they work through it and play creatively with their imaginations and collaborate and build! My goodness do they build! Huts, tents, 2 bedroom units, one bedroom units – in my living room, with all my furniture and while I’m cooking dinner. And my tired children no longer become “something else”.
Weekends we are out of the house even more than before finding and exploring new places on our doorstep we never knew existed. In the wind. In the rain. In the cold. In the sun.
It would be fair to say listening to the Rugby World Cup games on the radio or for my lovely husband watching his favourite soccer team play on his phone doesn’t quite have the same impact, neither does watching a movie on a Saturday night on the iPad.
Just to note that we’ve not actually banned TV from the children we just don’t have one right now and I can’t say that it will stay that way forever. Having just recently moved house, we did go shopping for a new TV but it didn’t eventuate so we just left the shop.
There is quite a bit of research out there now about screen time and particularly for children, the impact it can have on their development. This era of parenting is a minefield to navigate. Technology and screens are everywhere with vast amounts of information good and not so good that our children can get exposed to whatever their age is.
Removing the “information” from our home has been a really interesting and eye opening experience for all of us and actually one of growth and enhanced connection.
I’m not sure how I feel about re-introducing screen time to be honest it’s been more peaceful without it, however I’ve always been aware and mindful of being too restrictive on certain things as I worry restrictions can lead to binges or even hiding these things. We’ve all experienced this at some point in our lives (I’ll call out chocolate for me personally) so it’ll be a challenge for us to find a balance of screen time (and what they’re watching) that we’re comfortable with.
As we all know, Christmas is not too far away bringing fun traditional family movies and shows we all love to watch so it’ll be interesting to see what Christmas brings for us this year.