Sunday, April 29, 2012


Screen time, especially TV, is a constant battle in our house. I'm not sure if it's because we've always limited it and so it's forbidden fruit, or if it's just a typical kid thing, but I swear, Eli asks to watch TV 47 thousand times a day. He would watch all day if we let him. When he's not watching TV, he's either asking when he can or pouting because I've yelled about how all he talks about is TV. Seriously, this kid is addicted. And if he's not allowed? He will watch whatever anyone has on any screen. It's crazy-making. And no matter what we've tried, canceling cable, limiting, giving free reign, nothing has staunched it.

I'm not apt to get all hippy about this stuff. Actually, nevermind, that's totally me. But still. It drives me crazy that the more the kid watches, the less he seems to have the imagination or motivation to just. go. play. It probably takes him 30 minutes after the TV goes off to find something to do. And his attitude stinks. It's a little better now that he's reading, but I'm tired of fighting about it. On the other hand, we're not exactly modeling ideal behavior. C loves to watch Hulu'd shows and the dude is near-professional on Call of Duty. I'm on my laptop with blogs and FaceBook like it's my job. Both of us have phones surgically attached to our hands. We are a plugged in family.

So about a week ago I heard about "Screen Free Week." Essentially it started as "TV-Turnoff Week" and has morphed into a movement that encourages families to rediscover all the other ways of entertaining ourselves by vowing to turn off the screens for a whole week. There's a lot more to it, some interesting facts about obesity and exposure to advertising, and if I'd learned about it sooner I think I would've gotten much more grassroots about it. But as it is, I took it as a sign that it came up right as I was yelling, again, for the kids to go play outside.

I knew that C was not going to be into it, and I didn't want to force Eli, so I decided that I'd do it and whoever wanted to join me could. Eli went back and forth, but decided that he'd rather not. Fine. Whatever. I'll be a good role model. But then! He started haggling for how to make $5. And he offered to pick up the yard AND do the screen free week with me. So I negotiated back. For every day he doesn't have screen time, I'm giving him a dollar. So worth it, and he is super jazzed now. He's thinking he'll never watch TV again and be a millionaire.

I'm actually pretty nervous about whether I'll be able to do this. I'm fine losing TV, but the internet sometimes feels like my lifeline. Especially now that we're in a new city and I don't have a lot of social outlets, most of my friends these days are virtual. But I also have books I'd like to read and projects to finish and family to hang out with. Eli and I have an after-work hike planned for tomorrow to kick off the week in style. I also have some "exceptions" that I think will help. I'll be checking my texts. I'll check my personal e-mail once a day. I'll probably read the news at work. But no social networking. No blogs. No *gasp* Pinterest.

Expect lots of pictures next week of our SUPER FAMILY FUN! Wish me luck! And patience! Also, I'd love to hear how your kids, and you, handle screen time? Do you have addicts or a magic solution?


  1. You know I fully, fully approve :-) but moreover I super admire the way you are going about it-lead by example. No Internet will be ROUGH. Limiting that has been an on going struggle for me. Get Bernstein Bears, "Too Much TV" perfect reading for this week. We had this book growing up & did no tv for a week. E will end up really liking it...I think. You go girl!


    Jack is a TV freak, but Harry doesn't care either way, and they've both had the same screen rules.

    Jack has a full-on meltdown 4 times a day when the TV is turned off after his show. It's crazy-making.

    They got iPods for Hanukkah from my parents, and we use them for distraction-- like when we are sink and tile shopping :)

  3. You might check out this post for a different TV rationing idea. She also shared some nifty tips for using the ration coupons she creates. Plus lots of ideas in the comments, hope it helps! My (personal) solution was to move to a location without TV reception and refuse to pay for TV! The first two weeks were the hardest but then we became too busy to notice. ;)