I read the book Consuming Kids: The Hostile Takeover of Childhood in late 2010 (or was it early 2011? ... I can't really remember) and was deeply impacted by the explanations the book gave regarding how kids are impacted by our consumer-oriented culture in the developed world.
One of the points the author makes in the book is that we're all completely inundated and overwhelmed by screens - TV screens, computer screens, iPad/iPhone screens, etc etc. Screens are everywhere. Because they are seemingly omnipresent, it's important to take an intentional break from them every now and again.
The author's thoughts spawned a movement called "Screen Free Week." Every April, tens of thousands of families unplug the various screens in their lives and focus on good, old-fashioned, low-tech family time.
After reading the book, learning more about SFW and talking it over with my husband, we took a hard look at our family's media habits. We're slightly lower than the national average, in terms of hours of computer use, TV, video consumption, etc etc, but after thinking it over for a while, we asked ourselves if we should really be that proud of that? Is "better than the national average" ok for us? Are we comfortable with the amount of hours we spend in a digital world, as opposed to participating in our actual, physical environment? The answers to all those questions came back a resounding "no."
(An important note ... we're not against technology by any means. We're proud supporters of Apple, we both own smartphones that we're not likely to give up and we're happy to let our kids enjoy the cartoons we grew up with, Colin for right now and Joscelyn after she turns 2. We just want to strike a balance - where we can enjoy technology and the resulting screens in our lives without becoming dependent on them or letting them detract from our lives)
Although we missed the week this year (our baby daughter was born at the start of that week!), our family decided to make the first weekend of every month a "Screen Free Weekend."
Going into the weekend, I thought it would be a piece of cake. I guess I told myself the same lies that caffeine or nicotine addicts tell themselves - "I can stop any time. I don't need that cup of coffee or that cigarette. I just want it. I like the taste." For me, it was "I don't need my Facebook, Skype time or the Olympics. I just want them." Um, yeah right. This weekend proved to me that I do have a problem: I'm a screen-a-holic.
It was really hard to stay off all my screens. Even with lots of fun family time swimming, enjoying the nice weather, walking to our village's center and a great BBQ on Sunday afternoon, I had a nagging little feeling that I was missing out - especially during the quiet times throughout the day when I'd normally sneak a peek at my phone. It's really hard to admit that, since I didn't even make it the entire weekend (two whole days)! I just had to watch Michael Phelps's last race on Saturday night and on Sunday night, I just completely forgot about the fast and checked Facebook on my phone. In the words of Homer Simpson - "d'oh!"
I'm proud to admit that our Screen Free weekend was a breeze for our three-year-old. He asked a couple of times if he could watch a movie or the Olympics, but calmly accepted our "no's" followed by our explanations about what we were trying to accomplish. I don't think it made him happy necessarily, but he took it in stride.
So what did I learn from this experience?
- I should introduce myself to people I meet with the following ... "hi, my name is Christa and I'm a screen-a-holic."
- I want to keep doing these - as a reminder of what's really important in life. "Real-life" trumps "on-screen" any time.
- I need to get back to the time in my life when I appreciated silence and stillness. I used to and I want to again. I just need to find my way back to that place.
There ya go, friends. Lessons learned from the first-ever Cordova Family Screen Free Weekend. Until next time...