Ditching the devices – really?!?

Two weeks ago, we gave our boys the shocking and – to them – life shattering news that they must endure a period of two weeks without using any electronic devices. Perhaps a little cruel, when irony of ironies, here I am writing a blog post on my laptop and in the course of any day, I probably check my facebook page around twenty times.

So what brought on this bout of hypocrisy? Well, I’m going to start by stating that I am not anti technology. Really, I’m not. I saintishly bought my child his first device (a Kindle)  when he was six, believing that hours of reading and learning awaited him – how wrong I was! What awaited him was hours of game playing. And that’s fine – he still loves reading, but just prefers an actual book, which I understand.

For the last couple of years I think we have done a good job of controlling the time they spend on these machines, because whilst I agree they need to be adept at using technology, as I wrote in a previous post, I believe that too much screen time really switches off the brain. To help us manage this, we have always limited their use to specific days in the week. The kids have always been okay with this.

But then something happened.

And I’m not quite sure what it was, but overnight it seemed, the moment they came in from school, they’d be asking to play on the PS4. It seemed that it was all they wanted to do and the idea of limiting their screen time suddenly seemed to be a completely unreasonable expectation to them.

We both decided that a little digital detox was in order and this is what happened:

When we told the boys initially, their response was very calm and I could see in our older son’s eyes that look which said: “Here we go again, Mum’s off on one. She’ll have forgotten this by tomorrow.” But tomorrow came along with the inevitable “Can we play on our devices?” and we remained resolute – no devices for two weeks. For about 5 minutes, they were distraught, but after that they were fine.

We were amazed that two days went by and neither of them had made any further digital demands. Over the past week, there has been the odd request, but they have consistently been met with the same answer. I guess that when the two weeks are over, they will enjoy it all the more.

What did we do instead?

The clue is in the ‘we’. I have no interest in games’ consoles and consequently the time they spend on them is time that I don’t spend with them, except I may be sitting in the same room. But for the last couple of weeks, we’ve done a lot more of the things that are so important for families to do together. I repeat that I’m not anti-technology, but this has been a good opportunity to reinvest in quality and imaginative play.

  1. Forged in Lego – loosely based on the TV show about black-smithing: Forged in fire – a judge decides what each player will build and sets a time limit. When the time is up, judging commences.
  2. Drawing competitions – forgive me, but I’m assuming that doesn’t need an explanation!
  3. Charades – An absolute family favourite and very amusing as well.
  4. Acting – In the past couple of weeks, both boys like to re-enact scenes from favourite movies or pretend they’re in a talent contest.
  5. Board games – we’ve had loads of these out in the past couple of weeks, which is great for building on a whole range of skills, most notably I’ve noticed an improvement in numeracy skills with our youngest.
  6. Household chores – Perhaps not a favourite past time, but important for teaching the children responsibility etc; they’ve definitely been helping out more than usual!
  7. Outside play – true, it’s cold at the moment, but they’ve played in the garden or on their bikes A LOT more than is usual for this time of year.
  8. Playing with old toys – it’s going to be a lot harder now to get rid of those ones I thought they’d lost interest in!
  9. Talking – It’s been far far easier to get and hold their attention these past couple of weeks. We’ve talked a lot about all sorts of things and that’s always a joy.
  10. Reading – not that they’ve ever stopped reading or looking at books, but even that, we have done more of – more bedtime stories; two books on the go; an extra phonics book – it really has been worthwhile!

When the two weeks are over, they’ll go back to playing on their devices. I want them to. They enjoy it and they play together a lot of the time. Everything they do does not have to be educational and as I have already implied, I’d be some hypocrite if I made them keep off it forever. Having said that, I think they’ll return to being more accepting of the boundaries we set and I am glad we pushed the reset button; I’m glad that the children remembered that they can and do enjoy other things and that – more importantly – we spent some great time together.

Thanks for reading – please like or leave a comment!