How to keep the screen free family time rolling

Part of the Kinderling Conversation for parents. Weekdays 12pm-1pm.

Wed 26 October 2016

13 mins

Thank you for joining us on our Screen Free Challenge! It’s been wonderful to see your favourite screen free activities on instagram, and even though it’s officially over, we hope that you’re as inspired as we are to continue!

On that note, we caught up with Carl Honoré, UK-based author, speaker and slow movement advocate, who you might know from the ABC’s Frantic Family Rescue -where he worked with three busy families to go from “stressed and hectic, to happy and unhurried.”

Carl has some great advice as to why it’s important to keep those screen free activities rolling!

Look at your own screen use first

As parents and carers, we are addicted to our screens ourselves and this combination of distraction and fatigue impacts on family life. Remember that kids copy what we do, so it’s important to model positive behaviour, and that includes screen use.

Side effects of too much screen time

In case you need a reminder, Carl says that with too much screen time kids may struggle to concentrate, to focus, and be in the moment. Over time it can begin to erode their capacity for curiosity and they lose some of their creative spark. With those blinking lights and notifications, gadgets in the bedroom negatively affect the quality of sleep.

Talk about screen use in your house

Monitor and assess how your kids behave after being on screens, are they calm or agitated? Based on their behaviour work out what’s best for your child. As a family, talk about what the technology means, what’s good about it, what’s bad about it, and what kind of balance can we establish in our own home to get the most out of these gadgets?

Don’t be afraid of boredom!

“In moments of unstructured time, kids are forced to resort to their own devices and it’s when they learn how to use their imagination, their creativity, and to socialise with others, to work out who they are, rather than what we want them to be.”

Weaning kids (and adults!) off screens

“In the beginning there will be withdrawal symptoms, push back and techno tantrums, but as a parent, that’s part of the contract – sometimes you have to take the unpopularity hit!” says Carl and is a short-term price to pay for creating an environment that will allow your children to flourish and to be the best version of themselves.

Remember that “children are hard-wired for real play,” so get them outside into the backyard, the park or the beach for some unstructured play.

Practical tips to continue the screen free adventure

  • Designate certain times of the day as screen free
  • Make certain family outings or car journeys as screen free, e.g. doing the school run or going to visit grandma
  • Make one room or corner in the house that is permanently gadget free
  • If you’re talking to your child, put your phone in your pocket
  • Replace the technology with real-world fun, eg set up a giant puzzle on a table in the house and leave it there. It could become a magnet of Zen in the house and a place where you can be unhurried

Make it a game in your social group and try stacking

When you go for coffee with friends, put your phones on top of each other in the middle of the table and whoever breaks first and reaches for their phone has to pay for everyone else!

“It’s a nifty way of saying: we are here together in the real world. We will never have this moment again; why spoil it by freaking out about what’s happening on Instagram or Snapchat? Let’s just slow it down and be here together, fully present,” says Carl. 

We’d love to hear about your experiences of the Screen Free Challenge! What did you like about it? What did you learn? What are your favourite screen free activities? How are you going to keep the screen free challenge going in your house? Let us know on Facebook, send us an email, or continue uploading pics of your screen free activities with #screenfreechallenge.

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