What Happens When You Take Away the Screens
A few months ago my family unintentionally started an eye-opening experiment that magnified just how addicted to screens we are. Although we had time limits on electronics for our kids, even the small amount of time my son spent on them affected him negatively. His grades slipped, his attitude changed and his overall work ethic suffered. After some warning and discussion among the three of us, my husband and I decided we would take his electronics away until his grades improved. Grudgingly, my son handed them over for a three-month period. The change in him is hard to dismiss.
Perhaps the most obvious change is the simple fact that he found other things to fill his time. Suddenly, my son, who hadn’t touched his Legos in months, started rebuilding all the broken Lego sets and designing his own creations. He even (gasp) cleaned his room! I found him reading books that had been collecting dust on shelves, playing with his younger siblings, and journaling and sketching more than usual. These were things he had enjoyed before, but suddenly he had more time and fewer distractions.
After rediscovering hobbies like writing, reading, making art and creating, his attitude and overall mood experienced a total turnaround. He began to spend time talking to us and his siblings and even invited us to play board games with him. While we played games, we snacked on popcorn, laughed and chatted without looking at our phones or checking in on social media.
One day he decided to ride his bike through the neighborhood to explore streets he had never been down; later he came home and drew a map just for fun. He admitted to me that he was bored and missed playing video games but that he had found something fun to do anyway.
Over time, not only did his attitude improve, his grades rose. He even seemed more rested and reported sleeping better. The time came to make the decision to return his electronics. He had put in his time and improved in the areas we asked him to address. He had earned their return. We set shorter time limits and handed over the electronics.
Since that day, I have noticed a difference when he has exceeded time limits, even accidentally, and he realizes the hold electronics can take on you. I also notice that when we give the warning to set them aside, he does so more willingly because he relies on them less for his entertainment.
People today have a constant wealth of information at their fingertips and access to social media for keeping up with family and friends. But at what cost?
I am ashamed to admit that I, too, am addicted to screens just as much as my son is. They affect my attitude and distract from my responsibilities. Most of all, they take away from time spent with family. They make me impatient, and I feel a loss when I don’t have one of them in the palm of my hand. What fun would I seek out if I didn’t have my phone? What would I create? What hobby would I rediscover if I put my phone down? What would rejuvenate me and elevate my mood if I had time to fit it into my day? What about you? What would you do if your screens were removed?
Mom of six Sarah Lyons lives in Olathe with her family.