Techfasting Summer Break (At Least Part of It): The Battle Against Excessive Screen Time
Heather and I have about had it with screens. iPads, tablets, TV, you name it. It's not that we're anti-technology. I move knowledge for a living, on a 19 inch wired to a Dell laptop and a docking station. The BlueJeans video conferencing software is my new best tech-friend. Heather prefers her Apple. Don't get us started on "are you a PC or a Mac." We've made peace. She chose Jobs over Gates. Meh. But the boys are another matter. Andrew, Nate, and Caleb have developed an unhealthy relationship with the screen. If you're a mom or boy-dad, perhaps you can relate.
"After your chores you can have thirty more minutes, okay?"
"Finish your homework, and then you can play Pokemon Go."
"Okay, just one more show, but make it a short one. Thirty minutes. Thirty. Minutes. Got that? Repeat what daddy said." (picture eye rolls and grumpy-little-men expressions)
I'm embarrassed as I write this.
Me, the conscientiousness dad who reads the parenting books, and does his best to put the advice into practice, the dad who's there at the games and concerts, who loves to detox with his guys after school with a ball in the backyard, or over dinner conversation. "How'd the day go? And don't tell me it was simply good. Tell me why?"
Me, slave to a programs and pixels.
My boys are evidencing early signs of what might be termed an addition. The root cause of the addiction? Excessive Screen Time. In some ways, EST may be as bad for the brain as doing drugs. No, I don't think that's putting things too strongly. Research on the effects of excessive screen time upon children should scare us all. It's frightening. Rushing chores to so they can "tech out" seems innocuous enough because, after all, they are only children. The results say otherwise. I've seen it with my own eyes, in my own children. Shoddy work, dissatisfaction, inability to be bored, lack of imaginative play, laziness, even depression. After play, when I cut the power for the night, bad attitudes often follow. Tell me what that sounds like?
The disrespect has gotten out of hand.
So here's a troubling question. If they have the beginnings of an addiction, what does that make me? The guy who purchased the platforms and games, and now hands out "tech time" in trade for grudging obedience. Have I become their dealer?
"Do this and you can have thirty minutes. Come back tomorrow and we'll do it again."
Time to stop dealing. Time to stop being the pusher.
So, we're taking a fast from technology, a Techfast. Addictions die by starvation. You don't manage addictions. You kill them. There's no easy way and no other way.
Every device my boys own is in a box, put away. Being transparent, my phone is still in my pocket. But, I'm putting it in the cupboard when I get home, and working to ignore it more often than not. I shut down all of my alerts. I'm not even sure why they were on to begin with? Why should my phone tell me when to pay attention to it? It's my digital servant, not the other way around.
Two weeks of fasting is the current thought. Maybe more. How we reintroduce screen time to the boys after that remains to be seen. I guess we'll figure it out as we go along. I want my boys to be tech savvy, and tech smart, and tech aware. For that to happen, I have to learn how to mentor them in the wise use of technology, both for pleasure and more often for gainful pursuit. Less of the former, please. A bit of pleasure if fine. An overabundance of it is the danger. Ephesians 5:16 comes to mind. Time to redeem the time.
Right now, we're four days into the fast. The most noteworthy thing is the marked decrease in disrespect toward Heather. I asked her to describe the change she's seen so far, in just 96 hours of screen-free life. "Sobering, eye-opening, revolutionary," were the first words out of her mouth. "The boys are more relaxed, not as volatile, and now they have calm, peaceful spirits."
I believe we're on to something.
Can you relate to any of this? I'd love to hear your story. Leave me a comment. Let me know. If you embark on your on #techfast, jot down your observations and be sure to share.