It is true. Both our boys (4.5 & 2 yrs) have not watched a second of television in our home. They have not looked at or played with my iPhone/iPad, and have not been played back a digital movie recorded of them from all our cameras. They are completely screen-free.
Almost every person that discovers this about our kids has the same reaction.
1. They are shocked, eyes opened a little wider and followed by saying “like, none at all? Not even a little cartoon on YouTube?” NO, not even a 30 sec non-speaking-French/Japanese-produced-award-winning-short-anime on You Tube.
2. “Not even the iPhone?” Nope.
3. Then they will say: ” Wow, ok.”
4. Then silence.
5. Then they would take a long look at our boys and would say: “Maybe that is why they play so well on their own?”
Maybe, maybe not. Time will tell, I tell them. But in my heart, I truly believe that this is why we have such peaceful, joyful and engaging little boys.
How is that for simplifying?! Yes simplifying does not mean it is easy. In our modern environment surrounding us with so much technology and immediate information, deciding on no-screen-time AT ALL takes discipline and a very clear conviction on our part.
To give you some clarity, both my husband and I do not hate technology and we do not think television and computers are evil. In fact we are total geeks when it comes to computers and technology. I love movies, I was even in the film business as an art director for a while. I love my iPhone to bits, mostly because of the camera. I love Instagram. I design eCommerce websites for companies. When the boys are in bed, we both just go all-in on our daily fix of tech time. Mainly the web and the occasional movie or TV show.
Screen time for young children is proven to hinder their development, and I don’t want to spend time here to count out the negatives. There are many other obvious reasons why we’ve decided to do this and I will go into more details about this on other posts – but the most simple answer is (sorry for using this word so often but then after all this IS what this blog is about):
Think about it. We only have one chance to parent these kids at this age. We know very clearly the magnitude of how absolutely paramount the early years are. As the Chinese would say: “By the time you are 3, your character is set for life”. When we think about it this way it was so easy for us to commit to the No-Screen house rule, for the early years anyway. What have our boys got to loose by not watch television, thumbing through apps on the iPad or iPhone?!
Nada. If anything it has everything that is positive that comes with this no-screen discipline. It forces us to work on our engagement and our presence with these amazing little beings. They need our eye contact and our solid attention when we are around them. You may think, if that is the case then we would have to hover over them all day long. NOPE! In fact it is the opposite. You won’t believe me if you haven’t tried this, but it is true, screen-free kids don’t need to be helicopter-ed and we haven’t felt the need to do so.
Whenever I think of how I can simplify, I always do a “simplicity check-in” as I think about my mother’s childhood (over sixty years ago). She grew up in Southern China without any modern technology. She did not have toys and she did not have television. She and her siblings ( all FIVE of them) grew up to be intelligent, engaging, funny, successful and adventurous people. I would think about the stories she told me about her childhood and they were always funny and exciting – climbing plum trees, getting diarerhea from eating too many plums, taking care of the chicken (they only had one until it was eaten and then they would get another one ), hilarious stories about their fights over the most simple things, and how happy they all were even though they were poor.
Life with kids without screen-time for us had been really peaceful. I strongly urge parents to try it, especially if your kids are young, it is much easier to enforce. They will not miss what they don’t have. So what do you do with them all day long you ask?! Oh the list of fun is long and I will talk more about our daily rhythms in future posts.
In the meantime, I am working on writing about the time we went to visit family in Hong Kong last December, on a 12-hour direct flight (there and back), stayed there for 10 days WITHOUT any screen time?! Yes Hong Kong is one of the most media-driven, highly stimulating cities in the world and yes we did it. Yes it was not easy and no, no-one was hurt. Nobody died.