27 Oct, 2023 I cut screen time out of my kid’s life – here’s what happened
By Summer Lane
Let’s start with this: I’ve never been a fan of television, and I’ve always been even less of a fan of video games. I don’t mean this as an attack on anyone who enjoys either, but I’ve always been of the opinion that it is much better to read or exercise your mind in other ways, keeping television intake to a minimum.
I watched television here and there in my early 20s, but not much. I tried to watch “The Bachelor” once, but I got bored about halfway through the season. I would much rather read a book, because I find television to be overstimulating. Plus, I have trouble sleeping after I watch anything on a screen. You might relate!
This mindset has always been what I have ascribed to, so back when I had a baby, I resolutely determined to make sure she wouldn’t watch too much television. I’d say I’ve been pretty successful. She certainly has had her fill of Disney princess movies and absolutely loved “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” when she was younger, but I always had a ceiling on TV intake, and for good reason: too much television made for one grouchy toddler!
Even in what I would call a “more limited” TV environment, I found recently that my kiddo was being way overstimulated by television cartoons or movies. I had purchased a simple Amazon tablet for her to play educational games on for interstate car rides (Hello, Midwest!) or when I had an important meeting to log into (moms: sometimes you just have to survive, right?). However, when screen time was over, there were always tears, frustration, and tantrums.
I was perplexed because even though I was containing the screen time, it was still having a negative effect on her behavior.
So, I reminded myself that I was the parent (pep talk!), and after talking it over with my husband, we decided to try a new television schedule. Here’s what happened.
Limited screen time has been a winning solution
My daughter used to run to the television after she got home from preschool and watch one movie of her choice. I allowed this because she was often really tired when she got home and she needed to crash on the couch and decompress. However, it was only overstimulating her after being overstimulated all day at school!
I also did not like the tears that came (and the tense negotiations) along with prying a tablet out of her fingers, even if my time limit on the device was monitored and limited. Something about games is just addictive – plain and simple. I recognized this, and I wanted to nip it in the bud, so to speak.
So, here’s the schedule we came up with (this was for a five-year-old):
- No television or screen time of any kind between Monday and Thursday,
- On Friday Family Night, we watch one movie together, preceded by a board game and a special meal where we spend time talking about our day and week,
- On Saturday, up to two hours of “Saturday cartoons” are allowed; this means any show or movie that is approved by mom or dad. She does this in the morning, and after those cartoons, we tackle the housework for the day,
- If Mom and Dad are up for it, we might watch another movie together as a family unit on a lazy Sunday afternoon, but it’s not a sure thing. The limited screen time in our household is concentrated between Friday night and Saturday morning, and that’s enough for us.
Here’s what happened when we implemented this schedule: At first, my daughter asked to watch a movie or her favorite cartoon almost every night or if she was bored. The first week was an adjustment. By the second week, she stopped asking, and she started drawing more with her crayon and gel pen sets. By week three, she was not only drawing more, but she was flipping through books that had been long forgotten, chasing the dog around the yard, and curating a special “dance recital” for me in the living room. In other words, her creativity exploded in the absence of television.
I saw a 90 percent decrease in tantrums, and bedtime has been completely revolutionized in our home. She’s no longer overstimulated by watching a movie before bed. Instead, we sit and read a few chapters of a novel together and she wistfully gazes out the window, imagining herself in the story – just as it should be.
Now, she doesn’t ask for television anymore. She looks forward to Friday Family Night and we talk all week about what movie choice we’re going to make. Typically, the movie is an adaptation of a novel that we’ve just finished reading together. That makes it even more fun – we can discuss what’s the same and what’s different between the book and the film!
In summary, let me say this: Television and screen time are the easy way out when it comes to entertaining our children. I get it – sometimes we all need a break. But it can’t be the rule of thumb. I was pretty darn strict about television in my house before I implemented this current “digital ban,” and I was amazed at how much screens were STILL affecting her. I know it’s harder NOT to turn on the television. But it’s worth it. She’s thinking better, creating better, and acting better.
Let’s face it. Using the TV as a babysitter should be a last resort, not the first option. I hear stories about moms who put television in their kids’ rooms at young ages and I think, “You’re stifling their creativity! Let them be bored – out of boredom comes creation!”
It doesn’t matter if you have one kid or six – choosing to reduce screen time is harder on you as a parent, yes. But I highly recommend it. It has done wonders for our household, and I know it will help anyone else who wants to make a positive change and detox from the digital devices that have such a deep hold on our lives.
The opinions in this article are specific to its author, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the entire Counter Culture Mom team. This specific article was written by Summer Lane, and may not be reproduced, except to quote for reviews or interviews, without the express permission of the author.
Summer Lane is the #1 bestselling author of 30 books, including the hit Collapse Series and Resurrection Series. She is an experienced journalist and columnist who reports on news within the U.S. and abroad. She is the Associate Editor for Right Side Broadcasting Network. Additionally, she analyzes politics and policies on The Write Revolution.
Summer is also a mom and wife who enjoys rural country living, herding cats, and gardening. She is passionate about writing about women’s issues, parenting, and politics from a theologically-grounded perspective that points readers to the good news of the gospel.
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