It was just by chance that I ended up unplugging my son during screen-free week.
I didn’t even know last week was screen-free week, but I’d been getting concerned about my 10-year-old’s screen time. I was even more concerned about his inability to find anything to do once I’d make him turn off the Wii, Kindle or TV.
This is a boy who used to spend hours playing with animals, Play Mobile, trains and Legos. He was such a creative and easy kid. But no more.
I’m not saying my little guy was a total video junkie. He does play sports and goes outside to play with the neighbors when they are out. But lately, he’d been slipping in more screen time when I wasn’t paying attention. He’d easily been surpassing our two-hour a day screen limit, and when I’d tell him to turn it off, he’d just lie on the couch in my office because he didn’t know what to do.
Last week, he and a buddy wanted to play on the Wii but it was a beautiful day so I said no. Ten minutes later, I heard them in the hall outside my office. They had been standing there staring at each other the whole time. They claimed they couldn’t come up with anything to do.
That was the last straw. I told him no more screen time until he could remember that there were other things in life.
I polled my friends, asking what their boys did when they weren’t playing video games or watching You Tube. They warned me that it would be hard at first, but that their kids got their creativity back. They’d listen to books on tape, build Legos, make forts and play board games — all the stuff that 10-year-old boys are supposed to do.
Although there have been times of utter boredom, the week hasn’t been awful. My little guy has resigned himself to the lack of screen and is doing surprisingly well.
He’s rediscovered Legos, and his room looks like a Lego bomb went off. The mess actually makes me happy. This past weekend, when he claimed there was nothing to do, he ended up poking at a bee in the grass and observing a spider that was eating a caterpillar — all rather than helping me in the yard. And he’s discovered the joy of reading again.
One of these days, I’ll let him back on his Kindle but the rules are going to change. Maybe he will have to earn his screen time. Maybe he’ll only get screen time on the weekends. I haven’t figured it out yet, but I want to make sure he isn’t sneaking screen time, and that he always has other interests. I’ll let you know how it goes.
FranklyStein is a blog by Chesapeake Family Magazine editor Betsy Stein who lives in Catonsville with her husband, Chris, and four children, Maggie, 16, Lilly, 14, Adam, 14, and Jonah, 10.