Goodbye screen time, hello awesome kid

Guest post by Elka Karl

Photos by Elka.
My husband and I freely cop to having used television as a coping method. As two working parents with up to three hours of commute time each per day, free time to clean the house, cook meals, or attempt a conversation is seriously lacking. So, for about a half hour on weekday mornings and around half hour to 45 minutes in the evening on those days, we’d turn on the Roku and let our three-year-old kiddo watch Wonder Pets, ’60s-era Spider-Man, or any other variety of parental-approved idiot box entertainment while we powered through chores and tried to plot out each day.

We were miserable.

Not only that, but our genuinely nice kid was becoming something of a little monster. Every time we told him that it was time to shut off the TV, Uli would throw a mini tantrum, crying and collapsing on the sofa or the floor. In the mornings, he’d ask us to watch TV or the iPad as soon as he woke up. After preschool, the first words out of his mouth were “I want to watch Spider-Man.”

Four months ago, I told my husband that we needed to cut out all screen time during the week. While he understood the merits of the proposal, he balked at the logistics, telling me that there was no way that he could handle morning routine alone without television (to accommodate preschool hours we stagger our work schedules, with one parent leaving an hour or two before the other). I disagreed, and, being the bull-headed lady that I am, waited him out until he agreed to a screen-free weekday existence on a trial basis.

To prepare for the transition, I devised a series of “Mystery Boxes” for each day of the week. These boxes were stacked on the table each morning, and Uli got to choose one for each morning. Inside, I placed a project or special toy that would keep him occupied while Dad showered and fixed breakfast. One morning it was a Spider-Man puzzle, the next colored pencils and pictures I’d drawn for him to color. All of the toys or projects were sourced from forgotten objects in his toy box or from our craft and art supplies. His favorite Mystery Box item, though, was an old digital camera that he used to snap the most unflattering photos that have ever existed of myself and his father.

We only used the Mystery Boxes for about two weeks, and after that Uli was able to play in a more self-directed and creative manner than he ever was able to when he had weekday screen time. We were actually shocked by how quickly he adjusted to the no-tv-during-the-week proclamation. His teachers at school also noticed a difference, telling us that Uli was more engaged than he had been previously β€” a side benefit we hadn’t expected.

During the weekends, Uli gets to watch an hour or two of programming, either as morning cartoons or as a matinΓ©e in the movie theater (the kid can house a box of popcorn like no one’s business). If he uses the iPad, it’s for alphabet or numbers games, which he really loves. And in August, Uli and I took our first long plane trip without the iPad — including one fourteen-hour travel day. His dad had loaded a nine-year-old iPod with Uli’s favorite songs, which amused him for most of the plane trip, and in the airport, he did relay races in the terminal. It was a really successful experiment, and we have no plans to use the iPad again for travel.

Alternative to TV: taking photos of cows.

But the real change, of course, has been in his parents. We plan regular weeknight excursions, such as family swim at the Y a few times a week, hikes, playdates, or playground time. Another huge change has been actively involving Uli in chore time. He’s three-and-a-half years old now, which means he’s more than capable of helping to clean the house, water the garden, make dinner, or walk the dog (with our assistance, of course). And like all kids, Uli really values his role as a helper.

This isn’t a situation that will work for all families, and lord knows I would never judge other families who do let their kids watch tv. I get it. But for our kid, his behavior when he was on daily television (and it did feel like he was “on” it, that’s how drug like it came across, behavior-wise) was unhealthy. Other kids do fine with daily doses of tv, but for our kiddo, it wasn’t compatible with an active, vibrant early childhood. We may have lost screen time in our house, but what we’ve discovered β€” a healthy, thriving, engaged kiddo — has been invaluable.

Comments on Goodbye screen time, hello awesome kid

  1. This is awesome– great ideas! You are an inspiration! We have a just-turned-4yo and are facing the exact same situation. Can’t wait to try this idea, especially the “mystery boxes”!

    • As soon as I read this, I was like “YEEEEEEEEES.” We went through something very similar with our four-year-old (he’s 4.5 now) around the time he turned four. He would pitch a FIT when we turned off whatever he was watching — we’re like like, 25 minutes of a show on Netflix, or a documentary that he really likes. We weren’t quite as gentle as Elka — our solution was a 100% ban on TV until everyone in the house could behave appropriately after it was finished. Now before we start something (we have family movie days and watch something together, or he and my husband watch one Bill Nye episode every morning) we make a point of telling him that after this episode, we’re turning the computer off. He still gets upset from time to time, but on the whole he’s way more chill about it.

      We also noticed his behavior in general was significantly worse after he watched something — even after he had calmed down, he was much more chaotic and erratic, less predictable. So we’re really focusing on limiting the time he spends with screens in general (we like to give him computer time as well, so he can pick up those skills). I know there are a zillion studies about not letting kids under 2 be in front of screens too much, but I’ve never even paid attention to anything about kids over two. I guess we had to learn the hard way!

      In short: I love this piece.

      • I don’t think you need a scheduled time to pick up computer skills for a 4.5 year old. There’s plenty of time for it. Many many people have it as their job to make computer as user-friendly as possible. It’s hardly a box of mystery it used to be. I really don’t think there’s any danger of going without computer skills.

        • OH! We don’t make like, a scheduled thing of it — he plays computer games 2 or 3 times a week for like 20 minutes. It’s not meant to sound as intentional as it might. Honestly, to us it’s way better than watching TV because he’s engaged, not just sitting silently.

          And also, while I agree computers aren’t all that mysterious, we’re all very computer-friendly in this house so it’s something we do because we like to. Our choice!

      • We have had similar issues with our 4 year old. What he watches in the last month is always the same thing — train stuff — and it is great content with nothing at all promoting of conflict or short circuiting concentration or the like. Nonetheless, it has had a net negative effect on his behavior, I think. So, we are now letting him watch one episode a day — 30 to 45 minutes. And he is understanding this. And we are also engaging with him as he watches, instead of leaving him alone while we do other things, care for his younger sibling, etc. I would love to work towards no TV — and the mystery boxes are a nice approach — but this for now at least has led to some benefits. One thing I really think, too, is that even if the content is harmless, there is still an opportunity cost when the TV is babysitter, and that is less interpersonal interaction and connection. So, it might not be the TV that causes the bad behavior, but rather the lost connection. In either case, though, some limits are good. Thanks for sharing!

        • The lack of connection totally gets to us, also! It’s awful when he’s just sitting, watching. Now we try to make sure at least one of us is watching with him, just so he’ll be talking about what he’s seeing.

        • That’s a really interesting point. I wonder if there have been any studies done of the effects of watching TV passively/alone vs. the effects of watching TV in connection with another person (talking about what you’re seeing and, effectively, making it more interactive). I’d be super curious to see if the screen time itself causes attention issues and/or social problems or if it’s the lack of human interaction that does it (or some combination of both).

  2. This needs to happen in my house too. I like your idea for the mystery boxes. I have a 3 y/o and a 2y/o and my oldest LOVES tv. it makes me sad sometimes realizing how much time is spent in front of the tv sometimes just so we can get other things done. We don’t have a commute, or any other excuse. If you can do it we all can! πŸ™‚

  3. Wow! We are going through the very same thing with our 2.5 year old. Yesterday was rainy so we figured that his detox had been long enough and we could “find” the TV we “lost”. Nope. Same horrible tantrums. It really is like a drug. So we lost the TV again, and I’m off to find some things to put in the mystery boxes! What a great idea! I think it will help immensely with our often chaotic mornings, too! Thanks and good luck!

  4. Love this! My parents raised us with minimal TV time. I grew up on PBS (when I did watch TV), movies, and books. As a adult, I’ve never gotten cable or satellite. If I want entertainment, I still have books and DVDs.

    From my perspective, there are two downsides to this though.
    1. Like any “treat,” when it became available, I ODed on it. Visiting my grandparents as a child was basically my only time to watch TV without guilt and that’s all I did there. Seriously. A week of TV every summer.
    2. I have issues with other people watching TV. It irks me to no end to hear people talk about shows they watch and complain they don’t have enough time in their day to accomplish things. The average American watches something like 12 hours of TV a week, right? That’s 12 hours they could be cleaning or spending time with their families or reading. I’ll admit I judge them negatively for it, even though I know I shouldn’t.

    But the benefits far outweigh the downsides. Teaching your kid to survive outside the “idiot box” is a great move, and it can help them in ways you don’t even imagine. If my parents had stuck us in front of the TV more, I guarantee I wouldn’t have become the reader that I am. I wouldn’t have gone to the schools I did, and I wouldn’t have the job I do.

    • “1. Like any “treat,” when it became available, I ODed on it. Visiting my grandparents as a child was basically my only time to watch TV without guilt and that’s all I did there. Seriously. A week of TV every summer.”

      TOTALLY this. When we’re somewhere with a big TV (we just use the computer) my son is like a fly on it. ALLLLLL over it. Right now he’s mostly watching a lot of NOVA documentaries (it’s his choice — he’s REALLY into space right now so we’re finding stuff on Apollo 13, etc), and this random lizard cartoon, so when he sees anything else on a TV he can’t even help himself.

      12 hours a WEEK? Is that true? I can see how it can happen, given that people could have 1-2 shows a day they watch, but that still trips me out. I think a few hours a week is cool (when shows come back I have three forty-five minute long shows I watch each week, and that’s it) for adults, and like.. even less for kids. We’ve found in the past that while it’s initially no fun for anyone to take the TV away, the long-term positives (our son is a great solo player, he’s creative, he can entertain himself with all kinds of things now) are so great — so far!

      • Actually, I severely underestimated the amount of TV time.

        According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average person watches 2.8 hours of TV a day. Crazy, I know.

        • WHAT???? Almost 20 hours a week??? Seriously? That’s nuts. I’m not a big TV-watcher though (despite routine binge-watching as a kid, so there’s hope parents! Haha), so maybe my perspective is skewed. I only have maybe two or three shows I watch… but a lot of my friends watch so many shows that I wonder how they ever have time to do anything else.

          Is that including watching dvds or movies? Or is that *just* television? Nuts.

          • People might be doing something else while they are watching. Many people watch while exercising, cooking, cleaning or doing homework. Many families just leave the TV on all the time, even when they go to bed. Realize also that average also means adding up all the hours and dividing them between the number of people so the number doesn’t necessarily reflect how much people commonly watch.

        • I think the people without kids are skewing the average. Since having a child, my tv intake has gone from ~1-2 hours of mindlessness a day to 1 hour a week. I simply don’t have time to make tv a priority, whereas before, it was a way to unwind since I didn’t have (or was too lazy to find) anything better to do.

    • I grew up without a TV and hate how much I rely on it now. There are some weeks when I watch almost none, and others where I finish three seasons of a show in only 5 sittings or something.

      Except that I’m rarely just “sitting” and watching TV. I’m not sure if it’s better or worse that I find it really difficult to do a lot of activities without something on in the background. For instance, chopping 25 lbs of tomatoes for canning or something. Or even just making dinner.

      I’d like to get away from it, but it’s so hard! Luckily my 10-month-old will probably motivate our family to turn off the tube – I hope we can get into board games a lot more, since that’s what my family did growing up! So far she doesn’t get too drawn towards screens when they’re on. Even with my phone she’s more interested in the case, pulling my id out of the little pockets and playing with the clasp, rather than actually engaging with anything on the screen. We’ll see how long it lasts.

      • I sort of have the flip side of that dynamic with regards to watching tv – it doesn’t provide enough stimulus somehow, so if I watch something, I always have to be doing something else at the same time – knitting, repairing clothes, tidying, etc. It means stuff gets done (a good thing) but I hate what that implies about my ability to concentrate on one thing at a time.

        I also find I do best when the thing I’m watching has a clear end to it – it’s a show online, for example, or a DVD – because if it’s just on, inertia sets in and it tends to stay on, and I end up getting sucked into watching all kinds of things that I’d never have bothered turning the tv on for in the first place.

        • This is me too. I surf the internet, pick up the house, read, and make dinner, all with the TV on. I can do all those things with the TV off, but I rarely just sit and watch TV, and only watch TV. It’s not enough for me. So I had to re-evaluate what it was about the TV that I liked, and for me it’s background noise. Now I just listen to the radio while I do all that other stuff.

      • I find it hard to have nothing on when I am cooking/cleaning/folding washing too.

        The best thing I have done for this is switch to radio documentaries. I play them through my tablet or the computer.

        This American Life is a favorite, as well as quite a few segments from Radio National (rn is Australia based, but can be listened through the website. Although I am sure there are equivalents around the world).

        It was 2 birds,1 stone for me. I was entertained and kept in touch with the outside world.

        Also they are designed for no visuals, so not seeing the screen detracts nothing from the experience

  5. I find this true for my child too. We’ve tried varied amounts of Tv and while I feel like a super strict parent with at most one short video (he likes how it’s made πŸ™‚ a day when a lot of kids his age have been to fuul lengths feature films in the cinema, it works very well for his behaviour!

  6. What’s been working pretty well for me (so far… my daughter is only 21 months) is to only let her watch videos or play with the iPhone when I’m watching with her. So far, at least, I’m finding I can pretty easily pinpoint the spot where she stops being actively engaged in the activity and starts going zombie, and she’s usually ok stopping if I give her plenty of warning and turn it off right before critical point. Some days it’s 10 minutes in, other days it’s 40 minutes in, but at a certain point she starts twitching or keyboard mashing, and that’s my cue.

    The other thing that’s been helpful is being more consistent about when she does and doesn’t get screen time. For a while I was being really inconsistent because I felt like I shouldn’t let her have screen time, but I wasn’t committed to dropping it 100%. So some nights I would let her have free reign and other nights I’d say absolutely not, and she obviously had difficulty with predicting which it would be. I’m trying to be a lot more consistent so she’s confident that even if she doesn’t get to play with the phone now she will later, and that’s stopped a lot of the tantrums.

  7. We’ve been trying to think of a good way to transition our kids off the TV. They’ve gotten addicted and in the last couple of months have even started demanding TV shows. It’s usually “Da!” (Dora the Explorer) or “Elmo!!” (classic Sesame Street on DVD).

    It all started innocently enough. This past winter I was put on restricted activity at 20 weeks pregnant. My doctor told me to be in bed when I wasn’t at work. So we started watching classic Sesame Street in our bedroom as a family. As a way for me to spend quality time with my twin 2.5 year olds without exerting myself. But then restricted activity turned into strict hospital bed rest. And you can imagine what 2 year old twins are like while visiting their mom in a hospital room. So we started having hospital room picnics and watching TV when they visited. Then as the weeks of hospital bedrest wore on my husband started letting the kids watch TV at home while he was trying to solo parent. Now i’m home and the baby is out of the NICU but the kids are addicted to TV. It’s crazy.

    For starters we initiated a no TV in the evenings rule. So when I come home the TV stays off (my husband hates that this applies to his History Channel). But we’re at a loss for the mornings. I may spend my weekend thinking through this Mystery Box thing. I like it.

  8. We did something pretty similar in our house. Our 4.5yo daughter is a total TV junkie, so setting very clear boundaries was a must. She still pesters us for TV time on “school nights,” but I keep asking her if fussing to watch TV ever worked before (hint: the answer is No.). We recently had to add in another layer of rules for weekends. 1) no TV until after she’s eaten breakfast, because she could go half the morning and be a total grouch before getting around to eating, and 2) she’s only allowed one program before lunch and one after lunch. If she’s not going to play with all her toys because she’s watching TV all the time, I’m getting rid of them!

  9. This is an important topic! My son is 3 and we have a strict ‘no tv during the week’ policy. On weekends it`s perhaps an hour total. I started slacking on this a bit because my husband had a night class and our son was crying for him. The tv cheered him up. But as soon as dinner was over it was ‘me watch tv!’ soooo I went back to no tv. When he asks for it, I just redirect his attention to another activity, dig out forgotten toys etc. Or even *gasp* go ouside. Also he LOVES to help clean – of course it takes twice as long when he`s ‘helping’ but at least we`re both in a good mood ha.

    I have friends who think we are strict, but then I find we do more activities in a week. Some of them are clean freaks and find out place messy but meh, I prefer a bit of a mess and spending time with my son. He’ll pick up popular tv culture soon enough – he already knows spiderman and described him to me this morning – I have NO idea where he picked all that from!

  10. Just curious– do any of you find that your kids are having problems with the TV when your own programs are on? For instance, we tend to have the news on in the evenings, and on the weekends the TV is sometimes on in the background–football on Sundays, etc. My son is still wee (5 months), but at times I notice that something flashy on the TV catches his attention, even if it’s only for a moment. As he gets older, I can totally see that this could turn into an issue. Has this been an issue for anyone and how have you handled it?

    • For us personally, we just don’t watch our own shows while we’re with our kid, unless it’s family movie day. We watch his 25ish minutes of whatever during the day, and we save our shows for nighttime when he’s asleep. Sometimes we watch Democracy Now! in the morning, and he just watches it with us no problem. But yeah.. on the whole, we just don’t watch TV when he’s awake.

    • We have our tv in the basement, far from our main living area so it`s never on around our son. We only watch it after he goes to bed. The proof this does have some impact: when we visit people who always have the tv on (like my sister) my son will stand there hypnotized and stare, while the other kids in the house run around and play. I think the other kids just tune it out.

      Of course we almost never watch tv anyway – we don`t have cable, it`s mostly used for movies or games.

      I don`t know if this made the news in the US, but the great French scientific writer Albert Jacquard passed away this week. His books are extraordinary in explaining complex topics to the general population, like genetics etc. In highschool I loved his books and they were definitely influental in my choosing a scientific field.

      Yesterday they replayed an tv interview from earlier this year. In a class for struggling students, a seven year old girl asked how one became as smart as him. His reply? “don`t be dumb. What`s important is don`t be passive – don`t sit in front of the tv with a big bowl of candy’. That made me think of this topic. I’m not saying all tv is bad – there are great documentaries and debates on tv. And I watched TONS of tv growing up (my mom was a widow and struggling to support us) and I think I turned out just fine, but it`s a question of balance.

      Don`t be passive in life. I love that, so true.

      By the way the average american watches 32 hours of tv per week. That`s more than 4.5 a day. Just look it up.

    • Our son is almost 2 and he’s just started noticing our TV programs. I realized that we need to stop watching some shows (i.e. Burn Notice) because he gets SUPER GLUED to the scenes where there’s any touch of violence/yelling/guns/shooting. And he then started throwing things and hitting mama. After we’ve stopped shows with violent scenes he’s been mostly ignoring our shows. But we try to limit it, because between him watching a show and us watching a show, the tV has been on a lot…

    • As somebody brought up without a tv, I still don’t have any ability to filter out moving pictures in a room and just ignore them the way some people do. If I visit someone and the tv’s on, I will end up watching it, even if I’m not interested. If my husband and I sit down in the same room, him to watch tv and me with a book, I will either end up watching the tv or have to go elsewhere to concentrate. It’s kind of annoying. But it’s made me have other interests in life and I am generally far less interested in watching tv than my husband, so there are definite advantages to it too.

  11. I just shared this with my husband because I already notice a difference in the behavior of our 9.5 mo old baby when the TV is even ON (not sitting him in front of it). Like a moth to a flame. I read about the effect of the flicker rate on serotonin receptors — it IS like a drug. If I can find the article again, I’ll post the link. It was a little disturbing and totally reinforced my no-TV-in-kid’s-room stand, about which my hubby and I disagree. (Not now, in the future.)

  12. This is such a timely article – my husband and I were just discussing this concept last night – what ‘screen time’ really refers to and how it applies to parenting.

    We essentially agreed that there are simply just different types of screen time nowadays, and the type that people tend to be the most wary of are just situations like these – children spending time spent parked in front of something watching a show or similar, alone, becoming engrossed in the activity and detaching from the world around them. I’m making it sound worse than it is, but that’s essentially the idea. However, screen time like families watching movies together, or a child and parent playing a video game in co-op mode, or interactive games on a tablet where a child is learning to read/spell/do math/etc… to me, those things have a different value, and we shouldn’t be afraid of them.

    The main difference is the level of engagement with everyone involved, I think. It’s kinda like, what requires you to parent vs what gives you a BREAK from parenting. And there’s nothing wrong with solo TV or games or whatever to get that break – but I think like the article states, too much of a good thing can have negative consequences in some cases, and it might backfire.

    Great article! I love anything that falls under the “whatever works for us” category. πŸ™‚

  13. I feel like this is getting a bit judgey. Its easy to tak about “teh evil bewb tube” but then at the same time want to immerse your family in your particular fandom if you have one. I think its more about using an electronic baby sitter, and yes your iPhone counts for that as well. Watching a movie with your kids and talking about it, or letting them have a night where all the LoTR movies play is not the same as planting junior infront of cartoons and leaving them there to spoil.

    • Eh, I get your point but I don’t think that’s what the author meant. I too allow lots of TV in the mornings while I wake up (sometimes nap on the couch until the baby wakes up too) and maybe check my email. It’s way too easy to let one show turn into hours just so that you can get things done. And when my son starts flipping out when the TV turns off, it definitely makes me want to never turn it back on again.

      I think it’s pretty obvious that this isn’t about watching a movie together as a family, etc.

    • Totally agree, and I tried to address that in my comment right above yours – that sort of categorizing screen time by value based on whether it’s for family time/education/enrichment/etc. But I don’t think the author specifically meant that TV was evil, period. There are definitely those that think that, and it is a tiny bit reflected in some of the comments, though.

      We nerds take our fandoms and the sharing of them with our kids VERY seriously. πŸ™‚

  14. Props to you! I’ve given up on fighting how much TV my partner has on (He’s one of those people who prefers it on all day as background. So do I, but I try to be better anyway), so I try to combat it by having screen-free time as much as possible when it’s just me and the kids. My 3 year old is a bit of a monster when it comes to the TV as well. Thankfully his dad does take him outside for hours daily, so I feel it mostly balances out. That may change soon with the end of summer weather though.

    I’ll admit, my first response was to get defensive and start making excuses for the TV in my head. It’s true that my son has learned a lot from the shows he watches, but I have to admit it’s just way too much. But I am working on it. Mystery boxes sound brilliant! Lately I’ve been feeling less guilty just plain ignoring my kid (not when it comes to chatting and caring, of course, but in terms of finding him entertainment) and it’s amazing what they will come up with when they are truly the dreaded b-word (bored). πŸ˜‰

  15. Excellent idea and well done on making it work!

    I was brought up in a house where the TV was always on (whether or not it was being watched), as was my husband. Now we like to have it on even just for background noise but I don’t want my future kids to feel like they need to do that as well.

    A good friend of mine never has the TV on when her kids are awake (apart from to watch the one cartoon they like to watch before going to bed) and I think it’s a great idea. It forces you to be more creative with your time, encourages less distraction and what kids don’t know, they won’t miss…

  16. We have been discussing this for a while now.
    I grew up without a TV until I was 14 and find it a waste of time, while my husband LOOOVES all kinds of screens – TV, computer, smartphone, videogames, netflix, you name it. First thing that happened when I moved in was I banned the TV from the upstairs living room (luckily, we never had one in the bedroom), but he still regularly spends whole evenings in front of some box (mostly computer) while I go out with the dogs and take care of my horse. I’d say including his office job he regularly spends 12 hrs per day in front of some screen (on weekends also), maybe 8 sleeping and 4 doing something else.
    While it bugs me sometimes, I feel like we’re both adults and make our own decisions. But with our child on the way (due date is in Jan) I worry a little how things will turn out. How are we supposed to teach screen time discipline when one parent doesn’t have any?

    • Discuss it before the baby comes. How does your husband take to research or science-backed findings? My husband loves video games and often watches sports on tv, but we agreed ahead of time to be vigilant about the “no screen time before age 2” recommendation. We’re not as careful now (at 15 months) as we were initially, but it helped that we had an agreement before it became an issue.

      Also, having a baby means that both of you will have less for the things you do now, so be sure to discuss how caring for the child and taking care of other household tasks will be divided or shared. Is it fine with you if he is in the other room watching a screen while you are cooking dinner or taking care of the baby? What are your expectations for how much you each will help with those things? For me, I need to feel like things are pretty equal. But if I didn’t raise this issue with my husband (on a regular basis, not just once), we might have an unbalanced division of household/baby labor, and that would make for an unhappy household. Yes, you are both adults and make your own decisions, but especially after a baby, it impacts more than just each of your individually.

  17. My son is only 6 months old but I’m already very cautious about using the TV as an aid to get things done. Because he’s so young it only works for short periods of time (ie: long enough for Mommy to pull herself together in the morning with a little makeup!) I just have always disliked TV. My husband is a huge TV junkie and I was always an outdoor kid and am still a big ol tree hugger. I hope to raise our son that way as well. I have no disrespect for parents that use it though because sometimes it really is a great resource. My husband and I watch sooooo much less TV now that we restrict it when Nolan is awake. The problem? We’re on our phones more often!! We keep telling each other we have to break ourselves of it! Any advice to break grownups away from electronic devices??? LOL

    • I just started de-syncing my phone by 8pm every night. No trick or anything to it — I just made myself disconnect it from the internet. Every so often I leave it on, but for the most part I really like not having the extra distraction.

    • Get a “dumb phone.”

      Seriously, I’m horrible with being on my computer all the time, so I refuse to get a smartphone. My phone is a 7 year old flip phone and it has the benefit of not distracting me and additionally it takes 3 days for the charge to die – and it’s a 7 year old phone!

      I’ve gotten into trouble before as someone assumed I would get an email right away (I’m a graduate student – nearly everyone has smart phones and are expected to be available at a second’s notice) but I’ve found that eventually people recognize that I’m not avaliable 24-7, but I check my email at least hourly during normal business hours, and sporadically after that. People have gotten used to it.

  18. See, this is an example of an article (like so many of the articles on here) where the author talks about a problem they saw, how they fixed, and how it could work for others, all without being shamey or judgey. THANK YOU Offbeat Families because seriously, this is awesome.

    And this article just oozes ‘balance’. It’s not ‘we threw out all electronics and now we spend our free time making our own artisanal cheese out of our organic gluten-free farts’ or whatever. Hurrah!

  19. I remember reading somewhere a study about the effect of TV on the brain and it does effect us as a drug. The hard part is stopping, especially for children who have underdeveloped emotional control. The study said that turning off the TV had a pronounced depressive effect on mood and it suggested that it was really important to help children work through that, they don’t have that ability yet. I was all, no TV around the baby myself but then I had the twins and had to deal with the severe sleep deprivation and didn’t have any energy and it helped me stay awake, unlike reading or listening to the radio. I’m hoping to cut back on the TC soon though so I can do more with the babies now that they are older. One of the reasons I decided working (and nights at that) wasn’t worth the cost to our family.

  20. Thank you for posting this! My partner and I have been having (admittedly a little early) conversations about how to handle screen time for our kid, who we are expecting in a few weeks. So far we definitely agree that active screen time (and/or supervised, in-lap, interactive-with-parent screen time) feels ok in moderation, but passive screen time is something we’re less sure is ok for very little kids. (Yes, I know, we’ll see how this actually goes…) He grew up with unrestricted access to video games and computers and tv…and became a well-adjusted, kind, mild-mannered software engineer. I grew up without all that, so it’s nice for us to be able to add the experiences of other thoughtful parents to enrich our discussion, instead of just relying on studies about general screen time and judgmental commentary from media/parenting resources/whoever.

  21. OMG – I totally felt your husband’s pure FEAR in not being able to function in the morning without that 20-40 mins of toddler being occupied by TV. I already wake up wayyy before him so that I can run and shower and when he wakes up, it is GO time.
    I really haven’t had any success is finding things for him that he can do without me besides Netflix (Hammy Hamster). We have a train table, books, toys, chalk board, magnets, the works but, understandably, he wants me to “PAY” (play) with him. He’s not interested in puzzles or colouring at all no matter how much I try to engage in those activities with him. The mystery boxes are an amazing idea!

  22. We are having some similar issue with our 4 year old. We use tablet and TV time as a way to give us space to take care of his medically complicated older sister(do PT routines, change feeding tubes, deal with seizures; things 4 year olds can’t help with). But how do we break the habit when we really do need the space to do things like that?

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