Screen free kids


by Liz

A few months ago we ditched our TV and cut out screen time for our 3.5 year old daughter. Why the bloody hell would we do such a ludicrous thing, you might ask? Well, we started to depend on the iPad and the TV (for movies) heavily when I fell pregnant with her little sister and was feeling very sorry for myself with morning sickness, and then when her little sister was born we continued to rely on it to entertain her while I was in that blissful newborn bubble. She became a screen addict. It was the first thing she would ask for when she woke up in the morning and she could easily sit in front of it all day if she was allowed. She was hooked. And simply cutting back didn’t seem to work because a major meltdown would ensure when we would tell her that she had had enough and wasn’t allowed to watch anymore. I knew we needed to go cold turkey but kept putting it off because I thought that it would make life harder if I was always having to entertain her without having the iPad to fall back on when I needed a break. But I knew it had to be done, she was due to start at a Steiner Kinder this year and I very much believe in the benefits of kids being screen free, I just needed to grow some balls and bite the bullet.

I was also interested to see how my husband and I might change without the TV in the house. We never turned the TV on during the day (Isla only ever watched the actual TV occasionally when we would watch a movie), and there was rarely anything I was interested in watching, especially as summer was approaching and all the decent shows had finished for the year, but I often found myself mindlessly turning it on at night time. So one day in Spring we unplugged it and moved it to the garage. We also went cold turkey on iPad and iPhone screen time for our daughter on the same day.

The first day, obviously she asked to watch the iPad. We said no, some whinging followed, and then she got over it. I moved a basket of blocks and animals out into the lounge room and encouraged her to play with them.

Over the next few days she would ask to watch the iPad every now and then until gradually it became less and less and roughly a week after the screen ban, she wasn’t asking at all.
All of a sudden she was playing outside more, making up little games with her toys and entertaining herself. She started to sit and play with the blocks and her toy animals and she could happily sit and draw for twenty minutes or so by herself. Once she was free from the screen addiction she actually was able to entertain herself more! Her imagination came to life and she no longer played out scenes from Peppa Pig when she played, she now makes up her own little stories.

The main and most amazing difference was her behaviour. Almost immediately her moods levelled out and she was no longer so emotional, having meltdowns over every tiny thing.  And the thing is that I really don’t have to entertain her at all! She now spends most of the day in the garden playing with our pets or in the sandpit or the veggie patch and jumping on the trampoline. I found that when she was addicted to the screen, when she wasn’t watching something she would often need me to find something for her to do. She would be bored more easily and didn’t seem to have the ability to play by herself that she does now. Steiner teachers believe that screen watching seriously hampers the development of a child’s imagination – I found this to be completely true.

I’ll admit, it felt strange to not have a TV in the lounge room anymore. I grew up with the TV on non-stop, so to not have it at all felt like something was missing. At first I missed it, even though there was nothing I wanted to watch, I missed having the option of turning it on. But I loved not having that big black energy sucking box as the focal point of the lounge room. Without the option of turning on the TV I had to find other things to do to unwind once the kids were asleep. I started reading a book, magazines, crafting, my husband and I played board games, TALKED!

Now it’s been almost five months since we’ve had a TV in the house I can honestly say I don’t miss it at all. Hubby has Foxtel on his iPad so he’s able to watch that if the footy or any other sporty things are on but I’ve noticed he watches it less than he would if the TV were still here.  Our daughter is occasionally allowed to watch an episode of Playschool or a kids yoga class but it doesn’t happen very often at all. We’re not super strict and it’s no big deal if she gets 20 minutes of Playschool every other week or so, but now that we’re all used to rarely watching screens, we find we don’t use it to fall back on as a parenting tool. And I am still an avid Kardashian fan and when it’s in season I watch it once a week on the iPad- I will never give up my Kardashians!

When we moved the TV out we always planned to move it back in over winter. I couldn’t imagine not having a TV to watch movies when it’s cold and rainy outside but now we’re undecided about the future of our TV. For now it’s staying out, and we’ll just see how it goes when the long and rainy Victorian winter falls upon us. Whatever happens though I can say with certainty that we will never have a TV in our living room again, it will have to live in the spare bedroom if it ever does come back inside …

I’ll keep you posted!

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3 thoughts on “Screen free kids

  1. Fabulous article and I hope you have inspired many young families to ditch the awful habit of TV watching just for the fact of having some noise. It has always made me cringe to enter a house that is taken over completely by the huge screen that is mindlessly playing in the middle of everyone’s lives. And there are those who have a TV in their bedroom, in the kitchen, in almost every room! The question is often asked “why don’t families talk anymore?”, and I know that your article has hit the point right on the head. Well done to you and your family.


  2. I have been meaning to read this for ages! ….the bit about the mood swings really interests me . Good food for thought ☺


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