If you've been following my blog for a while, you know that this summer we embarked on a device-free summer for our nine-year old son. A number of things prompted that decision, and you can read about that in the initial post (I'll link to all the posts from the experiment below.) And in August, I wrote about ending the summer and how we planned to move forward. A few people have asked me how things are going now that devices are back in play in limited form again, so I thought I'd do a quick update post.
First, in order to limit how devices were brought back in, we set up some parameters. After shifting around a little bit that first week back and trying out different things, we settled on kidlet getting 100 minutes per week to use on devices (Ipad and video games.) Schoolwork on the laptop does not count. Television with the family does not count. What's nice about 100 minutes is that it sounds like a lot to him, but over the course of seven days, that means only a little over an hour and a half is spent on devices.
Now, every kid is different, but mine loves a system. So he has a little dry erase board on the fridge, he writes his 100 minutes at the top at the beginning of the week, and then deducts as necessary. He's also taken to planning his minutes upfront, which surprised me. "This week, I'm going to use 30 minutes on Saturday morning and this much on Sunday afternoon." He thinks about his schedule and decides where his minutes will fit best. He also is able to delay gratification and not use up minutes as soon as he gets them (because they reset on Monday and he often doesn't use them until the weekend.) But beyond the logistics...
How has it been going?
1. The iPad is basically dead to him.
This was kind of a shock to me. The thing he used to carry around everywhere has lost its shine for him. It's rarely even charged anymore. The few times he's used it, it was to film movies of his toy cars or watch a YouTube video on a topic he was interested in. He doesn't play the games anymore.
2. He'd rather use his allotted minutes in two big chunks so it naturally ends up being weekend time.
Since he's using the time for video games, it makes sense to spend bigger chunks of time instead of breaking it up into little bits of time. So usually he just plays for about an hour on a Saturday morning and then uses the rest of the time on Sunday. School days end up being device-free by his choice.
3. The limits let us all relax.
He knows what to expect. He has a timer that he uses, so it's not a fight to get off the game when it's time because we all know the rule. (I do let him finish a race or whatever if his timer goes off during his NASCAR game as long as it's not going to be some epically long time.)
4. He's self-monitoring.
I don't know if it's just because of the way my kiddo is, but he handles his own timer and turns off the game. Unlike before where it was a fight to turn things off and a bad mood afterward, he turns it off without my intervention. It's SO nice.
5. The obsession has been broken.
He's not itching to play on the devices. He doesn't complain about wanting more time. It's just this thing he occasionally plays now, not the center of his entertainment. He'd rather play his guitar, play a board game with us, or play with his cars most of the time.
6. His mood is so much happier.
I can't convey how big this change has been. Not that he doesn't still have grumpy days like anyone else, but he was getting angry a lot before--usually when it was time to get off devices (which was part of what prompted the summer experiment.) He's back to his fun-loving self again.
7. We're spending more time all together as a family (not just all together in the same room but doing our own thing.)
His device-free summer had inspired my husband and I to dial back a lot of our online time and social media as well. So we're all more engaged when we spend time together at night and on weekends. Our screen time is watching shows together as a family--something we hardly ever did before.
So y'all know I'm already a believer in doing this. The change has been pretty miraculous in our little household, but I continue to be surprised by the longer term effects of it. Now I just wish I had done this a long time ago. So many hours lost to that iPad...sigh. But we can't change the past, so onward!
And if you'd like to catch up on what the experiment was and how it went, here are all the posts:
Previous posts on the Screen-Free Summer:
- A Screen-Free Summer for Kidlet: How, Why, & If I'll Lose My Mind
- The 10-Day Update
- 5 Week Update on Screen-Free Summer
- The End of Our Screen-Free Summer: Results and Moving Forward