The hilarious thing about this post is this – the entire thing was written once and got deleted somehow. So, I’m now needing to spend MORE screen time to re-write it. Oh, the irony.
You may have noticed that I’ve been quiet lately. I certainly don’t win the award for ‘most consistent blogger’. I can’t figure out how some Mamas blog DAILY. How? No, really…? I don’t even know how to think of something worth saying ‘daily’, let alone finding time to put fingers to keys! But, I’ve been quiet because I’ve chosen to take some active steps towards reducing my screen time.
I mean, this post alone has taken me nearly two weeks to write. Just because EVERYTHING else comes first. Not that I don’t love blogging and connecting with other Moms online, but because real-life HAS to precede screen-life. And, friends – it has been really, really nice to spend less time sitting and more time gardening, playing, jogging, exploring, creating, researching, reading, cooking, visiting, and actually putting old fashioned PEN to PAPER! So, I suppose this post is about the journey of making my screen life less and my ‘real’ life more.
The first thing I should mention is this – our house is pretty void of screens compared to most, so I sometimes have a hard time truly relating to what many families deal with on a daily basis when it comes to screen time struggles.
We tossed TV years ago. Best thing we ever did. So, that’s not even an issue in our home.
We don’t really watch ‘programs’ or movies. Hardly ever. If we do, it would be about 1 hour per week, I’d guess.
We don’t have video games and will never have video games. I won’t get started on that one but will instead leave it for another post… *wink
But, we do have a computer. Oh, the computer. What a window it can be – to good and evil. And it needs (NEEDS) to be monitored heavily, friends. In our house, and in every house. I say all this because this post about reducing my own screen time is heavily geared towards computer time, because it’s the only screen I use.
Oh, about monitoring the kids’ screen time…
In our home, there are many days when the kids will have zero screen time. It’s easy to spend all day playing, working on ‘school’ work, and enjoying active things like hiking, hunting for toads, and checking out waterfalls. And because we have no hand-held screens with us anywhere we go, it’s easy to keep screen time very controlled.
The thing about children and media is this – the more they watch, the more they WANT to watch and the less they watch, the less they WANT to watch. I’ve seen how negatively media overload can affect our children and on the other hand, I’ve seen how positive it is for them when we drastically reduce media time.
So, that got me to thinking… what about me?
Sure, there were many days the KIDS weren’t screen-gazing, but, there was barely a day that passed without ME spending time on the computer. Why was I so concerned about monitoring the kids, yet, showed no initiative in challenging my own habits?
About Mama’s Screen Time…
Over the years, I’ve run various businesses that required a lot of work online and on the computer. I write. I take courses. I blog. I work with an organization in Uganda, which requires a lot of emailing and promotional work. Lots and lots of things have begged me to sit in front of this glowing computer screen. And I have. Oh, I have. There have been nights I’ve jumped on the computer the moment the kids were in bed and stayed there for 3 or 4 hours straight.
It’s not that I was doing anything bad. It’s just that I was spending HOURS in front of a screen. It started to wear on me and I really saw the negative affect it had on my body, my mind, my mood, my overall productivity.
I realized I needed to make some major changes in my own media life. And that’s what I’ve done. I’m still not ‘there’ or by no means perfect, but, wow, have things changed for the better. That’s why I share this with you. Not to say, “look at me”, but rather, to share my mistakes, my short-comings and encourage you with how I’ve been inspired to make changes. And those changes have made SUCH a positive impact on our family.
Why bother controlling our screen time?
Some of the big reasons I changed my media habits:
1. Because I want to focus on what’s really important.
I really want to live a life focused on the things that truly matter.
I know it’s kind of shocking but, Social Media isn’t reality. (I know, I know…) There are many positive aspects of connecting with friends and family online (look at this amazing little community, for example!) but the truth is, it isn’t the firmest depiction of reality. Often, what’s going on ‘online’ is truly not that important to our daily lives.
I mean, did I really need to see another video of a giggling baby or read ONE MORE description of some one’s dinner menu? Through social media, we really get sucked into a lot of random jabber. There’s the uplifting and educational posts and articles but there’s a whole lot of fluff too. There is so much ‘stuff’ flying at us constantly that we go on overload. And most of that information is not important in the grand scheme of life.
I want to spend my days and my nights focusing on the things that are eternal. (This is a work in progress, friends!) But really, focusing on the things that will really matter at the end of life. Relationships. People. My walk with Christ. Servanthood. Deepening my friendships. Reaching out to those in need. Some of that can be done online, I admit. I’ve had good chats and stayed connected with friends and family who were far away through Facebook, email, etc. But nothing beats a real conversation, a real hug, a real moment. The feeling of a cool breeze on your face during a early morning jog. The sound of bullfrogs at twilight. This is life. These things are real. Time to reflect and give thanks and look up – these are the things that are so hard to do in front of a screen.
Online we get pulled into so many distractions that the ‘real’ gets skewed and the ‘eternal’ often gets lost.
2. Because our children are watching.
This is HUGE. I want to model the kind of behavior I hope to see in my children. This includes many things, but it definitely includes media habits! How can I rightfully ask them to monitor their own media time and be responsible with their use if I’m not doing the same?
I want our children to remember a Mama who was engaged in real life, not lost in front of a screen. I want them to see me present with them, enjoying time reading, creating, moving, exploring, hugging, writing, talking, engaging with friends and neighbors, serving – living!
A couple of years ago, one of our kids told an acquaintance that, “Mama is ALWAYS on the computer…” I was mortified. It wasn’t necessarily reality, but it was the child’s true perspective and it really made me aware of how our children were seeing things. I don’t want my children’s memories of me to be of a back turned and a face stuck in the computer. That makes me shudder.
I knew changes HAD to be made.
3. Because I want to be in control of my habits.
Ah, habits. Yes, Charlotte Mason, I love you! How convicting to look inward at my own habits rather than constantly trying to form those of my children. Our habits form us, friends.
Reaching for the computer on a constant basis is a habit. If we feed that habit, our computer use (or TV, or iPhone, or whatever screen) will start to take over. The habit will form how we live our days and ultimately who we become. This should be a sobering thought, friends!
Changing a habit takes action and discipline. We have to be willing to move towards a different habit.
There’s a reason why there are no screens permanently visible in our home. It’s a form of habit changing and habit building. The more screens you see, the more you are drawn into them. The habit being formed is that of contentment and focus on real, living things and people.
4. Because I don’t want to miss the moments around me.
I know I write this to so many Mamas. And among you, there are so many homeschooling Mamas. We all want the best for our children and families. As a home educator, I’m so gifted and blessed with the opportunity to see my children grow and learn every single day. It is an honor and not one every parent gets to choose or experience.
It’s easy, though, to get sucked in and lost in the online world of blogging, writing, researching, looking at Facebook, you name it. I think a huge reason why homeschoolers blog and go on Facebook is for community. Many of us can feel a little isolated. But, friends – don’t get pulled in. Choose to connect at the appropriate time and work towards building real-life friendships with other Moms.
Here’s what I found – the more I used the computer during the day, the more I missed the things around me. The discoveries, the snuggles, the funny story, the joke I didn’t have time to laugh at. I was really, really missing it. I saw the children’s faces when I said, “Just a sec…” one more time.
I just got to a point where I had enough of that lifestyle. It wasn’t worth it. There is nothing happening in this screen that is more important than what is happening right here around me. These people – my husband, these children – they are not forever. They are here for today. How can I possibly let media time compete with family time?
5. Because I want to be balanced and healthy.
I want to strive for a healthy soul, body and mind. I want to nurture positive lifestyle habits in myself and my family. Hours of screen time just doesn’t lend itself to a full, balanced life. I’m sure most people can see and understand this truth. There is an epidemic of obese parents and children at the same time there is an epidemic of media overload. Inactivity does murder to the mind and body, friends.
As a follower of Christ, I believe I’m called to live a healthy life. The healthiest one I know how to live. And for me, I’ve been convicted about screen time for various reasons. Too much sitting around. Too many distractions. Too many times getting lost in what isn’t important. Staying up too late doing ‘work’ on the computer. Becoming lazy in front of the screen.
Also, I really want to be working hard within my home. It is my job to be a productive homemaker, educator, and wife and mother. I just don’t feel I’m doing the best I can do when I’m spending too much time in media land. It just isn’t healthy for me.
Three of the BIGGEST (and BEST!)
Media changes I’ve made:
1. Drastically reducing or eliminating computer use during the day.
I used to log on to the computer several times during the day. I’d browse Facebook or Pinterest. I’d search recipes and look for craft ideas. I’d check messages and emails. When I was working from home, that would lead to returning phone calls or placing orders. I’d get so distracted and lost in this stupid screen that the kids would start drifting from their tasks and start arguing, running around, doing anything to get my attention. It was very, very negative for our family. Even if I was only online for 15 minutes, it never ended well.
When your eyes are opened to something that just isn’t healthy for you, it’s so important to listen to those convictions and act on them. So, I started asking myself why I was going online or trying to get ‘work’ done during the day when the kids really needed me. And I started realizing that it was just a bad habit I’d trained myself to do. If things were quiet, I’d gravitate towards the computer.
For about a year now, I’ve completely limited my day-time computer use. (I try not to go on the computer at all and if I do, it’s for the kids’ homeschooling. If I need to check a message or update Facebook, I set the timer for 2 minutes.) Because we educate at home, these limits are so important. Our kids need me fully present and fully engaged during the day. It has done WONDERS for our productivity and the children are far happier and more engaged in our homeschool.
I’m also far more at peace, joyful, and WAY more effective in homemaking and homeschooling, as I’ve learned to use quiet times and times when the children are busy to get meals prepared, the next lesson prepared, tidy up, get laundry done, etc.
2. Setting an over-all daily limit on Mama’s screen time.
No more than one hour per day is the goal. This refers to the evening hours when the children are in bed. I challenged myself to no more than 10 minutes on Facebook and 5 minutes on Twitter and Pinterest. So far, it’s been completely doable and very freeing to not be trapped in mindless Facebook gawking or time wasting social media traps.
I’ve also had several days/weeks where I’ve challenged myself to reduce Internet even more. Either I’ve fasted completely the internet (namely Facebook, social media, blogging, etc.) or reduced it to ten minutes just to check email.
And you know what? It’s been WONDERFUL. There is something very beautiful about not even reaching for the computer for days at a time. We even took away our home ‘office’ so that computers are not easily accessed. We actually have to pull one out, plug it in, and boot it up every single time we want to log on. Our Mac is stored in our room and has to be lugged downstairs to get it going. I’ve found this really helpful in keeping us from mindlessly surfing the web, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.
(This is also why you haven’t heard from me as often lately…)
3. Prioritizing and planning screen time.
This has been incredibly helpful in reducing and streamlining my time on the computer. It’s as simple as this: I make a list of what needs to be done on the computer and when I log on, I stick to the list. I usually try to put the list in priority order. My list could look like this:
1. Respond to email from Jenny
2. Email Brad from PAOC
3. Email James regarding school fees in Uganda
4. Check Facebook messages
5. Add image and publish blog post
6. Update Facebook blog page with new blog post
I simply sit down, follow the list, and check off the tasks as they are accomplished. No deviating. It works wonders when I stick to it. *cough*
I really hope this post is informative and helpful. I’m just another Mama striving to do the best job I can do. I’m nowhere near perfect and struggling every day to find the most peaceful, fruitful, and meaningful path. Big love and blessings to you!