Childhood for the Beans is very different from the childhood I remember, technology has moved on at such a pace that children as young as Jelly Bean know how to operate a tablet, it just becomes second nature to them. As a parent it can be difficult to get the balance right between letting them use enough to keep up to date with developments in technology and with their peers but also for them to enjoy ‘childhood’ using their imagination away from the screens.
Up until now we have been quite free with the Beans ‘screen time’. We use the parental controls to set specific lengths of time for their tablets to operate and we have set ‘quiet time’ so they cannot switch it on too early in the morning or too close to bedtime but anywhere in between they can pick them up and put them down as they wish. So far, this regimen has worked for us and giving them the freedom of choice has shown us that they are capable of making wise choices for themselves. They play for a period of time and then switch off to do something different.
Three weeks ago, something changed. The Beans had gone out on a shopping trip with Daddy to buy gifts for Mother’s Day and one look at his face when they returned told me all I needed to know about how their trip had gone. Daddy was not a happy bunny, he said that the three older Beans had fought, argued and chased their way around the shops. They had ignored his commands to stop and he declared they were an embarrassment. We sat around the kitchen table as a family and talked about what they had done and why they had done it. We received the usual response “don’t know”. We knew that their punishment needed to be something that would make them think twice the next time we were out so we chose to confiscate all gaming technology for a month. Their tablets, DS consoles – everything was placed in a clear plastic box so they could see what they didn’t have access to on a daily basis.
Just after we began this ‘ban’ with the Beans we were contacted by the guys at E.ON to see if we fancied taking part in their #SwitchOffChallenge where the whole family would go without any kind of technology for two hours a day; no TVs, tablets, games consoles or PCs. I explained that we were already starting a ‘gaming ban’ for a month so they were naturally intrigued.
New research by E.ON has found that over half of parents (53%) want to spend more quality time together as a family, and over a third (37%) say that gadgets have the biggest impact on the amount of time they spend together as a family. In fact, almost 1 in 5 parents (19%) stated that their children couldn’t go more than two hours without technology.
I don’t fully agree with all of these findings as I know that we definitely go for more than two hours regularly without technology as we regularly spend time outdoors together or indoors but we do read books, listen to music (does that class as technology?) and doing crafts.
This was how we got on . . .
For the first week they didn’t really say anything about their missing ‘technology’ they played with toys from the playroom which they would often play with anyway but their attention span never lasted long with each toy or playset. They played together chasing each other around the house and garden. I encouraged them to get out board games which we played together and we even talked about the ‘family games night’ we used to enjoy regularly but have since let slip.
Little Bean asked if it was time to have her tablet back yet. I told her that it would be another 3 weeks until she could have her tablet back. She said that she wanted to look up information for school work so I said that she could use the home PC which is set up to only allow her access to specific websites. I gave her 15 minutes to find what she needed to and then switched it off. Her face said it all, she was hoping I would forget and then she could sneak a few games in too, a very clever little lady indeed.
This was the first week of our Easter Holidays so the Beans have had more time on their hands to notice things are missing. I had already bought them Easter crafts to do and had planned days out. During our mornings at home, they argued quite a lot but this could also be down to them readjusting to spending extra time together.
Little Bean has been asking again when she can have her tablet and DS back. Curly asked for the first time this week when he could have his things back but didn’t sulk too much. Instead he helped to do jobs around the house (without prompting) which then encouraged the other Beans to help too.
This is the week that I have noticed the most changes to their behaviour and entertaining themselves. We have a pretty well-stocked playroom and I complain time and time again that they never look further than the end of their nose to find something to play with when they say “I’m bored, there’s nothing to do”. This week (without my prompting) they pulled out boxes which haven’t seen the light of day for months. They ‘discovered’ toys they had forgotten about and played nicely TOGETHER. They pulled out their ‘search and find’ books which they haven’t looked at for months and searched TOGETHER without argument. They found board games and memory card sets, they created their own games and used their imagination to make things from plain sheets of paper. Curly created a treasure map which they used for their game of pirates. They emptied the dress up box and turned their new climbing frame into a pirate ship.
They have always had good imagination but I think perhaps through Hubby and I giving them free choice on when they have screen time, they have maybe turned to screens at times when they would otherwise have engaged their imagination.
They have been so busy playing outside with each other and with their friends that the only time they have asked for their tablets or consoles has been when we have had to go on long journeys in the car. I must admit I hadn’t considered this one before making the ban as Little Bean DOES NOT sleep on long journeys and she gets bored easily in the car so this did not make for fun journeys. We tried playing travel games and listening to music etc but within 15 minutes she was complaining again. Now if I’d had the technology in the car boot I might just have caved in and given it back to her.
What we have learnt doing the E.ON #SwitchOffChallenge
Banning the children for one week would most likely have had little effect on them as they didn’t really miss their gaming for that short period. The most noticeable changes didn’t happen until the end of week 2/beginning of week 3.
Technology definitely has it’s place and dare I say it, I think we have created our own demons because we have allowed them screen time as a way of keeping some peace and quiet. Since having their gaming back, they have continued to play together nicely outside (helped greatly by the beautiful weather we have been experiencing) but they have tended to turn to their consoles when they have felt the need to chill down and have a little quiet time to themselves. We have agreed that this will be kept to just 30 minutes then it’s time to switch off and find a different activity.
How do you think your children would cope doing the #SwitchOffChallenge? Dare you take the plunge and switch off? I’d love to hear your thoughts?
DISCLAIMER: We were given vouchers to buy craft/baking/activities for the family to do during our #SwitchOffChallenge. All words, images and opinions are my own and may not be copied without my permission.