Quitting screentime completely – does it work?

Quitting screentime completely – does it work? Have you tried it with your family?

How much time our kids spend in front of a screen is something we have almost always been “strict” about in our household.

Generally speaking, we’re not big TV watchers and our kids don’t own tablets or iPads. Therefore limiting screen time for our children (usually around the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines) has proven to be a reasonable practice for us.

It wasn’t until this past summer when I started working from home full time that I found myself stretching an hour to an hour and a half or allowing just one more episode of Pokemon so I could get in a few more emails quietly.

I also realized that I wasn’t counting when we passively had the news on in the background as TV time. Clearly we weren’t always setting a stellar example for our kids. We tended to use our phones during what should have been family time.

Even on the days when our children weren’t directly watching TV, they were still exposed to some sort of screen. I started to notice it in their behavior.

They both started to repeat some things they heard on the news and in some (G-rated) shows. We thought these were appropriate, but realized were not based on our family standards. And during the very few times that we did allow some kind of game playing on one of our devices, it was meltdown central as soon as their time was up.

Somehow, screen time had turned into an activity that got worked into our day. It just became part of our daily schedule.

Quitting screentime for kids

That’s when I decided to go cold turkey.

No more TV. No more devices. No more screens.

Spoiler alert: It ended up making a tremendous difference for our entire family.

There is no doubt we live in a digitally-driven and media-focused society. I’m finding it harder and harder to monitor what my children are consuming.

I put many limitations and restrictions on what my children are being exposed to. But I found myself spending so much time doing so that I wondered, What’s the point?

The funny thing is, almost 100% of the time, my kids would rather participate in an outdoor activity. Alternatively they would use their creativity through indoor play than spend their time watching TV.

So, my plan was to stop offering it as an option. After the first week of implementing my strategy, I realized they didn’t even notice. Rather than work it into the day, we just filled that old TV time with other activities.

This meant that sometimes the kids were “bored” and had to use their imaginations to make up a game. It also meant that I couldn’t always count on TV time to get things done and I had to rearrange my schedule a bit.

It was amazing to see the immediate shift in their behavior—they became calmer and the defiant behavior significantly decreased. They were more creative with their time and energy. Watching them pick up a book instead of begging to watch a movie was a proud mom moment!

It was also obvious that my husband and I needed to take a look at our own media consumption. Clearly we needed to lead by example. We need to work, so we couldn’t cut out all forms of screens, but we put some major restrictions on our digital use as well.

Instead of immediately grabbing our phones in the morning, we spent the first few moments of the day connecting with each other and being more present while we got the kids ready for school.

Instead of watching the news, we used that time to enjoy breakfast as a family. We waited to turn on the TV to get the latest news until drop off was complete.

We set guidelines around phone use in the evening. We made it a point to put our phones down when one of the kids asked a question or needed our undivided attention.

We had quiet time in the evening before bed and even found some family games to play. Once we realized that our son’s nightmares were no longer a nightly occurrence, it wasn’t hard to figure out why.

It has been several months since we made this change.We do occasionally enjoy a movie night or spend a good chunk of a Sunday watching football, but our kids are exposed to screens rarely these days.

If they ask, we suggest a different option and often have to put our agenda aside and engage with them. As soon as we do, they forget about that game on the iPad or show they were asking for five minutes ago. We get an opportunity to tap into our childhood through play which we’ve really enjoyed.

The result of cutting screen time out of our lives has been getting to enjoy more quality time together. They are far more important than anything a screen has to offer. We’ve found we don’t have to become overloaded with media, even in a media-driven culture. I would even go as far as saying—it has saved our kids and our family.

Quitting screentime completely has worked for our family. I suggest you try it with your family!