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I Screen, You Screen, We All Screen for Screen-Free Time

Screen-Free Song Lyric of the Day:

Hey / Put the cellphone down for a while / In the night there is something wild / Can you hear it breathing? / And hey / Put the laptop down for a while

Arcade Fire / “Deep Blue

A few months ago I instituted screen-free evenings at home. My goal was to spend focused quality time with my family without the distraction of screens. Also, having struggled with popcorn brain for some time now and working all day on a computer, detoxing from screens is something I feel I occasionally need to do.

I let Rich and Coraline know a few days in advance that I’d like for us to designate a particular evening as screen-free so they both have time to think about or plan what we can do on those nights. We usually end up playing board games (Cora’s getting quite good at Clue Junior) or enjoying family coloring time, or a mix of both. And now that Coraline is a big reader, we also enjoy time where we’re all just reading our respective books; this either requires Sebastian be in a good mood and playing with some toys or him going to bed early if he is, shall we say, not in an agreeable mood.

On screen-free nights, we also try to be as device-free as possible. Which means no music streaming from Alexa or even the CD player. Quiet time means quiet time. As Rich and I both always have our phones on us (bad, I know), we silence them and leave them in a room we are not going to be hanging out in. The thing I miss most about not having my phone on screen-free evenings is not being able to immediately Google things that come up in our discussions. It’s not like we have a set of encyclopedias sitting around, waiting to be cracked open. Also, it turns out I rely on Google A LOT.

Our pets also benefit from screen-free evenings. Troubadour and Capone are always game for a neighborhood walk, while Buster has his choice of laps if we’re all sitting around reading. It’s a win-win for all of us.

When we first started having screen-free nights, I think we were all a bit hesitant to dive in. As I mentioned, Rich and I are pretty attached to our phones (so bad). And Cora and I like to watch a bit of Psych together (we’re almost done with season five), so that’s out on screen-free nights. Sebastian is not screen-addicted yet, but he’s definitely very screen-interested. It’s an active battle with him to keep him away from screens as we’re still trying to limit his exposure. We’re not doing as good a job as we did with Cora at the same age, but we do try. Although sometimes to buy myself a few minutes of relative peace, I’ll pull up the PBS Kids app on the Roku and put on Sesame Street. Sebastian LOVES it (“Street!”) and I feel a bit less guilty for letting him watch a few minutes of TV because it’s educational. Educational TV makes it OK, right?

I’d like to make screen-free time at least a weekly thing for us. Now that school has started again, that’ll help us get into a routine again, so we can designate a certain day as screen free. It’s validating to know Coraline likes it — she actually asks if we can have a screen-free evening or if we can designate a few hours on the weekend. So at least I’m doing one thing right. Right?

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