5 "Screen-free Zones" You Should Commit to Today
These days screen free time is precious time. In school our kids start using computers and tablets by age 9 (some younger) only to be followed by gaming and smartphones when the school day ends. For most adults our computers and smartphones are with us from morning till night with only a few breaks here and there. This is the world we live in, but carving out spaces that we reserve as “screen-free” zones is one of the most important things we can do to maintain peace of mind, focus and grounding. So where should we begin? Here are 5 spaces to consider designating as “screen-free” to give you and your family the much needed media break you deserve.
Many parents rely on tablets to keep their kids entertained and quiet on car rides, in fact some cars come with screens built in. But plugging kids in to their screens in the car does them a disservice and potentially robs your family of conversation and bonding time. Most child development specialists agree that boredom and daydreaming are both critical to the development of a healthy sense of self. The car is a place where kids can space out as they watch the world go by, listen to music as they think about their day, or even share snippets of information with you when they don’t need to be looking you in the eye. My family follows the 1 hour rule: if the ride is under 1 hour we don’t use screens, if it’s going to be a long trip then we do. For little kids, taking a long trip without moving can be a lot to ask and in this case tablets provide the perfect entertainment. You can also listen to audiobooks, podcasts or music. As the driver and role model remember you’ll have to follow the rules too and that means no texting or browsing while driving!
Nothing makes me more depressed than looking around a restaurant and seeing a family where every member is staring at their screen instead of interacting. It’s equally bothersome when everyone has their phone sitting on the table during a meal - inevitably one by one the phones start to beep and bing and the entire flow of the gathering is disrupted. My family has a strict no screens at the table rule. When we sit around to a meal together, whether at home or at a restaurant, it is a time to talk and share. Since my kids are young and restless I often bring markers and paper, books, and other interactive activities to do while we wait for the food. I do think that it’s perfectly ok when dining alone, to look at your phone, but even then it’s probably to a good idea to put it down for a bit and be present for the meal.
This one is particularly hard for parents to follow late at night when the house is quiet and you want to get cozy with a cup of tea and social media. Likewise, if you have a teenager in the house you know you won’t be able to control this entirely - at the very least consider putting time restrictions on screens in the bedroom for your teen. EVERY study shows that there are multiple reasons to keep electronics (especially phones) out of the bedroom. The blue light of the screens disrupts melatonin release and makes it harder to get a restful sleep. Simply having the phone nearby has the psychological effect of tempting people awake to “check in” on what they may have been missing. Phones emit small amounts of radiation which could over time have negative effects on the brain. For kids having any kind of screen in the bedroom leads to more unsupervised screentime, more opportunities to explore inappropriate content and more sedentary behavior. But to me, most importantly, the bedroom should be a sanctuary; a place of calm, a getaway, a haven. Of course we’ll all break this rule now and again, but overall I’d try to stick to it.
The Park/Beach/Special Destination
If you’ve gone to the effort of going to a park to play, of spending the day together at the beach, of exploring a new museum or going for a hike, keep the screens away. These family outings are a chance to have fun and bond. Even if the kids are bored and whiny, giving them a screen to quiet them robs them of the opportunity to manage those uncomfortable feelings and deal with their reality. It’s important for both kids and parents to be able to remain present even when things don’t go exactly as planned.
Any Other Zone in Your Home that Feels Screen-Free to YOU!
We all have different homes with different layouts, rooms, and sacred spaces. If you have a special place that you would like to reserve as screen-free then do so. It may be the kitchen, a deck, or even the front porch - follow your instincts.
What are some spaces that you feel should be screen-free zones? I’d love to hear your ideas!