Screen Free September

Aug 31, 2017 by

We are getting ready for Screen Free September!

“What’s that?” you say.

Well, it’s a month without screens, of course. My children are THRILLED!

Okay, not really, they’re pretty despondent, but I have to give them credit, they’re taking it pretty well and trying really hard to be champs about it. We sat down this afternoon and agreed to the rules, here goes:

1) No screens – that means no TV, no iPad, no iPhone, no computer, no PS4, no Nintendo switch… you get the picture.


1) if homework or work requires it

2) if it is educational (with permission and if abused this caveat goes away)

3) if we are all doing something together as a family (limit: 1 movie or 1 hour gaming per day)

4) if the kids have company and want to play a game together (again, abuse this and it goes away – limit: 1 hour)

5) kindle (ours is the book only kind) does not count as a screen.

6) Mom and Dad can watch TV when the kids go to bed – my son wanted to put a limit on this, but I assured him we are out cold not long after he is #Truth

7) No email at the dinner table (this one’s mostly for Daddy)

**all rules may be amended by UNANIMOUS consent only**

Now I know what your next question is going to be, “How did you get your kids to agree to this?”

I would first like to remind you that my kids don’t HAVE to agree to house rules, they are kids after all, and we are parents. They don’t have to agree to screen limitations, we pay for them, they don’t. That being said, I wanted them to be partners in this decision and ultimately I did get them to agree to it… sort of. The conversation went kinda like this:

Me: “I think we’re going to do a Screen Free September.”

12 year old son looks at me in panic and 9 year old daughter yells, “yay!”** My son then stares daggers at my daughter.

Me: “I just think we’re all, ALL OF US, spending too much time staring at separate screens instead of doing things together. I want to make sure we’re taking the time to connect as a family.”

Son softens a little.

Daughter, “yay!”

Me: “I haven’t talked to your dad about this yet – “

Son: “Yes! Dad will never go for this!”

Me: “ Yes he will and besides I’m still thinking on it myself, but I think it would be good for all of us, so just think about it, okay? I think it’s important we find ways to fill our time that doesn’t involve getting lost in a screen.”

Later that night I had a more prolonged conversation with my son, who was considerably more hesitant to agree to this than his sister**. I have to say, I am so proud of the way he handled it. He does NOT like this idea, but he understands the benefits that may come from it and is willing to see it through with the rest of us. Ultimately, he had his own conditions (that were incorporated into the rules) and he agreed.

Before you go and try this yourself, and your kids totally flip out on you, and you think I’m totally full of S#!@, I feel I should share some important details with you.

We have regularly taken screen breaks, a week usually but sometimes two, before going on a long journey or when the kids are acting particularly awful to each other. During each of these screen breaks I have found that after a day of moping (where I do not, under any circumstances, alleviate their boredom in any way) my kids will magically start finding things to do. Shockingly, kids who can barely stand to do anything together realize they have a playmate living in their own house and find imaginative games to play with each other, they read more, they create more, and are generally more pleasant little humans.

At the end of the week we talk about how it was, make observations about ourselves and each other, and talk about how we might keep the good things when going back to our screened up life. It never lasts completely, but over many years with numerous I screen breaks, I have found it has made the kids more self-aware as to how their screen time affects them. My hope is that as they become adults they will apply what they’re learning now into their own time management.

We are the first generation of parents to deal with this pervasive time sucker and I feel like it’s incumbent upon me to help them build those skills while they still care what I think, and not just hand them a screen when they would prefer to ignore me and hope it all works out. This is also the reason why I’m not “waiting till 8th”.

My point is, I did not just drop the bomb of a month without screens on my kids without giving them a chance to learn they could survive a week, or sometimes two, without it. Trust me, they will think a week will kill them if they’ve never done it before, and it’s up to you to keep your cool and let them know they’ll be okay, ignore their moping and tantrums, and trust, really TRUST, that they are resourceful enough to find other things to do to alleviate their boredom.

Now summer has ended. You know, that time when kids get extra screen time, extra freedoms and wake up late (if you’re lucky), and I thought maybe it would do us all a little good to take a much longer break and see what we get out of it. I hope you’ll stay tuned for the journey, and maybe try joining us for part or all of it.


**My daughter thought Screen Free September meant screen time would be free, i.e. Unlimited. Good news is that she prefers board games and coloring to screens anyway, so the fresh realization only momentarily painful.

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