After some soul-searching and the realization that my preschooler is planning her day around what shows she will watch and when, I am declaring it to be No-Screen November in the Pangburn household. This decision was made with some fear and trepidation, mostly because I realize it’s going to be met with a lot of resistance and will be more than a little inconvenient at times. But sometimes you need to do something drastic in order to break bad habits, reduce screen time, and we all need a reset. Full disclosure: I don’t actually know if No-Screen November is a thing, but it sounds like it could be, so I’m going with it!
I originally decided to participate in No-Screen November because my kids are watching more television than I would prefer. Don’t get me wrong, I know I’m the enabler here, so part of this challenge is to create new, better habits that don’t include me throwing them in front of a TV or iPad. Similarly, watching her favorite shows has become an all-consuming pastime for my four-year-old, and while I’m fine with it being the occasional treat, I’ve found that she sees it as an entitled right, and her attitude and creativity tends to suffer in the aftermath of a lot of screen time.
However, she’s not the only one; after attending an event at my church on technology use and utilizing the new feature on my iPhone that shows me just how much time I’ve spent on my device, I came to the uncomfortable realization that I too have something of a screen problem. I’m not much of a TV watcher, so giving it up for 30 days is no particular hardship. But giving up my daily scrolls through Instagram, checking Facebook and email, and the myriad of other things that make me pick up my phone hundreds of times (!) of day? That hurts. But like all resources and tools, technology should be stewarded. I want my kids to see that I value the real and present, relationships, and face-to-face interaction. This means taking my smartphone off the pedestal that I’ve placed it on and putting it away.
I decided that simply banning all screen time for a month was impractical (since we’re not Amish); instead, we’re laying down some simple parameters. For 30 days, screen time will be severely limited. That means no Netflix for the kids when I’m trying to make dinner. No YouTube in waiting rooms. No Paw Patrol when I just can’t [insert annoying parenting moment here] for another five minutes. I’m giving myself grace here too though; I know there will be exceptions, but my goal is to break the expectation that a screen should relieve boredom or serve as a convenient babysitter.
For my own sanity, I brainstormed a list of things we can do instead of watching TV (when my kids are bored or about to go off the rails).
15 Alternative Activities to Screen Time:
- Read books.
- Go for a nature walk.
- Do pedicures.
- Make a craft.
- Play a board game.
- Do a Busy Toddler activity.
- Play with Play-Doh, slime, or Play Foam.
- Make cards to send to friends or relatives.
- Play with kinetic sand or water beads.
- Make a long track for Matchbox cars and have races.
- Jump on the trampoline.
- Ride bikes.
- Paint or draw.
- Toss or kick a ball around the yard.
I’m sure I’ll be adding more to the list as the month goes on.
For me, limited screen time means no phone during high-need times (breakfast, before dinner, etc.), at the table, or for pre-bedtime mindless scrolling. I’m using the Apple Screen Time function to give myself an hour of social media app access per day. As someone who constantly feels like she’s not getting much done during the day, I sure do spend an awful lot of time on Instagram. It’s time for a break, to set some boundaries. To be fully present for my husband, children, and friends, engaged with who I’m with so that my daughter doesn’t have to say “Mama, please look at me, not your phone. I’m talking to you.” In short, No-Screen November will be summarized by this mantra: phone down, eyes up.