You have heard every warning in the book:
- Television rots your brain.
- Tablets interfere with speech development.
- Video games lead to childhood obesity.
Numerous scientific studies are behind these warnings, each with varying degrees of provability. Families across the country respond (or don’t respond) in different ways.
I counted myself among average families that limited usage but occasionally fell off the wagon – usually those stumbles occurred during a high-stress time of military life: a PCS, a holiday break during deployment or the point during a TDY when more than one major appliance broke at the same time.
But something happened last year that made me sit up straight and pay closer attention. When our normally conservative electronics rules loosened over Christmas break, my husband and I noticed an obvious shift in our kids’ behavior, and it wasn’t pretty.
It was then that we decided to do something drastic. We decided to have not an electronics resolution, but, instead, start an electronics Revolution.
I’d spent the better part of my professional life working in the nonprofit sector, at a family literacy organization, Read Aloud America, where I learned how to use reading aloud as a tool to strengthen family bonds and build strong bridges between the home and school. My experience there was rich, and it made a significant impact on my life as a mom.
So, as 2017 began, my husband and I implemented a strategy that I’d learned at Read Aloud America:
TTTT, Turn off Technology Through Thursday. That means that Monday through Thursday, there would be no television, no computer games, no tablet – nothing.
What followed in the subsequent year was incredible, and I realized that the whole idea of pulling the plug was about so much more than speech development and physical health; it was about family health.
Turning off electronics isn’t about punishment. It’s not about turning off a household “evil”; it is about turning “on” an attitude change and revitalizing the family’s soul.
How Turning off Electronics Can Benefit Your Family
When experts examine the effects of electronics on children, many use a particular term in their assessment: displacement. Watching TV, playing video games and swiping through tablets takes the place of many beneficial childhood activities.
What are those activities, and why are they so important?
“Real” Play – When children scamper around outside and dig in the sandbox, don costumes and pretend they are pirates or princesses, they are engaging in what literacy and child development expert Sue Palmer calls “real play.” It’s the necessary stuff of childhood, which helps children develop problem-solving skills, test their leadership abilities and work out conflicts. They interact with each other, build friendships and explore the world around them.
Instead of passively watching a screen, they actively participate in their environment; this participation enriches their lives and exercises their young minds in a way that electronics don’t.
Reading and Reading Aloud – When the option of screens is taken away, the option of reading is promoted more effectively. Time normally spent watching TV or playing video games can be more easily spent behind any kind of book: a comic, picture book, scratch n’ feel, chapter book, choose your own adventure and more. The important thing here is that kids choose what kind of book they read (unless of course it’s inappropriate – then parents should intervene).
While parents make dinner, kids can sit at the counter and read aloud, or older children can read to younger children. Or, kids can simply enjoy reading or looking at pictures on their own. More often, little bed-heads will be illuminated by the glow of a reading lamp instead of the glare of a screen.
Meaningful Family Interaction – When children are redirected to activities like “real play” and reading, the factories of their minds will begin pumping and churning ideas, leaving parents to stand with their mouths agape, asking, “How did you come up with that?” And very interesting, meaningful conversations will ensue. Aren’t you fascinated when you catch a glimpse inside your child’s mind?
When electronics are off the table, quiet moments in the car will turn into discussions about lizards’ diets, the storm on Jupiter or what it would be like to live in a castle. Dinner table conversations will focus on the day’s epic battles outside or masterful creations with blocks and paints. You’ll ask your kids for more details about their thoughts, plans and experiences… and they’ll give them to you.
The energy in your home will be remarkably calmer. Your kids will be happy. And so will you.
Wondering how you’ll accomplish all this?