Tablets, games consoles, smart phones, computers, televisions…the list of screens available in our house is ridiculous but I bet it is no different to most busy family homes. Technology and the internet are an amazing thing and the advances made and opportunities (blogging anyone?) available never fail to fascinate me but despite this, I’m about to make what will be a very controversial family decision to ban ‘screen time’ as it’s widely referred to, during our free time in the week. Let me explain why.
We have stopped communicating, to the point where Zak will come in from school and go straight up to his room to watch someone called Dan DTM wax lyrical about the joys of Minecraft on YouTube. So he isn’t even playing it, he’s watching someone else play it. This is one of many examples where he would prefer to watch something than play out or do an activity. I worry that he is starting to live his life through a screen rather than being present in the moment.
I’m ashamed to say that this is quite likely to be a learned behaviour as in my spare time, I can often be found watching videos on YouTube also. He sees that I have my iPhone glued to me at all times and I am constantly checking my social media accounts like a crack addict, secretly stealing my next fix. Even when something beautiful, poignant or funny happens in my life, my first thought is to grab my phone, snap a picture or take a video and get it uploaded to see what reaction it has in the online world. In doing so, I have usually missed the moment myself.
In the evenings we always watch TV – we barely speak unless it is to comment on what we are watching. Don’t get me wrong, I love watching a good movie together as a family or following along with a favourite TV series but for the most part we flick through hundreds of channels, grumbling about how there is nothing on and then settle for watching something completely rubbish. The habit of interacting through ‘screen time’ is so ingrained in our family life that I know it’s going to be extremely difficult to break and go cold turkey.
What are we going to do with our spare time then? Well, I’m hoping we are going to talk to each other about our day, about what was great and what was not so great, about anything really. Hopefully, we will get the chance to read the books we always meant to read, get outside in the fresh air after school / work and who knows what else. That’s the thing though, I’m afraid if we don’t turn off our screens then there will be nothing else. I don’t want to live my life, watching others through a screen and I don’t want my kids to waste their imaginations and childhoods doing that either. I will update in a few weeks with how we are getting on – wish us luck!