So, here we are, the start of the loooong summer break. I hear some of you moaning and others aren’t too fussed. Let’s imagine all electronic devices are removed from your house for a day. Who would struggle the most, you or your children?
This is something that happens every Saturday in our house from 10am until 5pm. It came about as my husband and I found ourselves constantly asking the kids to get off their iPads, phones, iPods, XBox or to turn off the television. We would walk into their rooms and see all of these board games, books, Lego and craft activities just sitting there not being utilised because apparently staring at a screen for hours is far more interesting! I will admit I wished my husband all the best when he informed our two children that he had this grand plan which involved no electronic devices for a day! In our house, I am generally the enforcer so I thought it was a good idea it come from hubby to show the kids that mum isn’t always the ‘bad’ or ‘strict’ parent and he can run faster than me too! As you can imagine it was met with disbelief and it was the worst day of their lives and there was drama, tears and tantrums. So what? It made no difference to us and we weren’t backing down.
I don’t need to explain the benefits of implementing such a ban and the reasoning behind it. If you asked my children why we implemented such a horrible ban, which was not fair, they would tell you exactly that, it isn’t fair. Now after 12 months, they are used to it and have found it isn’t really that bad. Both have Saturday morning sport so by the time they get home it is lunchtime. During footy season, my son learnt how to listen to the footy on the radio. He actually had to tune into the commentary and listen and he learnt to visualise what was being said and of course, the score! My daughter loves to read so she would read or drag out the craft box and use her creative side. At first there were teething issues when my son would go to a friend’s house and watch the footy or a movie or play the Wii! I would ask what he had been up to and he would tell me so innocently. The following week he went to the same friend’s house and they had also implemented an electronic ban for Saturday’s. Now they play Monopoly or build Lego track throughout the lounge room. As the weather is getting nicer, the kids are out on their bikes, playing cricket, shooting hoops and actually interacting and socialising face to face, not through screens and games.
I will admit I found it hard when it first started only because on a rainy Saturday afternoon, I actually liked watching the footy or a movie. As the weeks went on I found myself going through cook books and cooking with the kids or playing a game of Monopoly that would last all weekend. As role models to our kids, if we are on our electronic devices all the time texting, playing games (guilty) or watching television, our children think it is ok to do the same and we wonder why they buck up when we try and change the rules.
My challenge to you is to implement an electronic ban consistently for at least a month. If you think an all-day ban is too much, do it gradually, increasing the time. Be prepared to spend time with your children and interact with them and actually do things with them. Go for a bike ride or a walk, play a board game, read them a story, draw or even cook. If you say no electronic devices and entertain yourselves, you will cave within the hour! You may need to discuss this with your children and let them know what is going to happen and why. Come up with different ideas of things they can do, besides their homework or cleaning their room, then they will see it as punishment. Let them brainstorm with you and go through their cupboards and pull out those toys and craft tubs that haven’t been out for a long time. Devise a list of different things they can do while they don’t have access to their pride and joy.
Technology is great and there is a time and a place but I worry about our children not developing the adequate social and communication skills required. An iPad or iPod can be an escape for some children and adults, but it is equally important they learn to cope and escape by other means. As parents and teachers, we need to teach them that through experience and modelling.
I would love to know if anyone accepts the challenge and how you go. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts or leave a comment on the blog.