One Sunday evening, I grabbed a basket and collected every tablet and phone in the house. I proclaimed a fast from devices, a time to clean out the system of my family and open our eyes to the world around us. The devices were stealing my family away from me, and I wasn’t going to take it anymore.
Growing up we had two choices; die of boredom, or find something to do.
There were no devices to play on. Television shows couldn’t be recorded unless you had a VHS. We had to use our imagination, play outside, and create fun for ourselves.
Today is a different world — our children are entertained by tablets, phones, and TVs with endless streaming services. My kids included. That was until the day I took the devices away.
I was the mom who gladly stuck a device in their hands to keep them quiet so I could focus. I let the TV babysit so I could actually accomplish a task. They couldn’t function without a device. When spoken to by another adult or child, they couldn’t make eye contact because they were too focused on the phone in front of them.
I realized I had cultivated an addiction within my children. Addiction to devices.
A New Generation's Addiction
According to Pew Research, 71% of parents are concerned their child spends too much time on a phone or tablet. As justified as I believe this concern is, we struggle to break the cycle.
As parents, we are called by God to train our children in the way they should go.
We have a generation of parents who are struggling to parent their children in a digital age, because it was not how they were raised. We struggle to set boundaries, limits, or even say no if it means they won’t have what other kids have. We want what’s best for them, but are afraid of the backlash if we try.
My house is no different from your house.
It is a constant fight for right behavior, healthy habits, kind words, and better attitudes. I discovered, however, the devices in front of them were making the fight harder than it needed to be. Even with heavy parental controls and screen limits, they were somehow still gaining access to things they shouldn’t. They still sat at a table with their eyes glued to a device rather than the people in front of them.
One Sunday evening after the final fight over the tablets, I grabbed a basket and collected every tablet and phone in the house. I proclaimed a fast from devices, a time to clean out the system of my family and open our eyes to the world around us.
The devices were stealing my family away from me, and I wasn’t going to take it anymore. Even my husband and I participated by setting limits to apps or deleting them altogether. The only thing we allowed on our phones were either for work or phone calls and texts.
10 Practical Tips to Break Kids' Screen Addictions
How can I teach my kids to rely fully on God for all things when the device in my hand was where I spent the bulk of my focus. I was just as guilty of being robbed and addicted to my phone.
How do we break with devices in a realistic way? How do we soothe the addiction we have created?
1. Be prepared for them to be annoying. They are kids, they will whine and beg, but stand firm.
2. Have a list of things for them to do instead. (chores, playing outside, games, coloring, reading, legos, anything that is not tv or a device)
3. Have real conversations with your family. There is nothing more important than the people in your house. Be a part of their lives – listen.
4. Be an example. Put your phone away, read books, talk, spend time doing other things.
5. Pray. When it is hard, pray. When they make you crazy, pray. Ask God to remind you why you did this in the first place.
6. Remember it is worth the effort and the struggle, and your kids will be better for it. Trust me.
7. Find a way to reward. Take a trip for ice cream, or go to the park. Reward them for their hard work.
8. Make a list of new things to try. Learn to ride bikes, craft, a sport, anything new they have never tried.
9. Access free resources. The library, museums, community pools, etc. Find things that can be done together as a family.
10. Teach them to get creative. I remember making a tv out of a cardboard box and putting on shows for my family. Help your family find the creativity in what is around them.
It will be worth the work on our part to help our kids thrive without devices.
In our house it took time and work. The first day, there was begging – and it was annoying. I stood firm because I knew it was best, but I had a list of ideas handy to block their every excuse.
The second day, they wanted music, and in a digital world, all the music was on their devices. So, we bought two radios. Shocking, I know. They were amazed that music came out of something besides a phone.
I found a way to block the complaints, and by day three the air began to clear. They didn’t ask for the devices, they found ways to keep busy (just like we used to). For the first time in a long time, I felt relieved.
I had allowed my children to become the parents and dictate what they would do. I allowed them to dictate what they believed they needed. My 12 year old was certain she wouldn’t sleep without the tablet, music, or a TV. I bought a radio and she has slept better than she ever has.
My five-year-old was the worst of them all. Surely death was coming without his games, but within days he was happier, and rarely asked or thought about playing on it.
We get to choose what we allow to control our family.
No longer were devices a battle at the dinner table, no longer did they distract from having real conversations, and giving up devices brought joy back into my house.
Once our fast was complete we set up new rules – devices and tv only on the weekends and devices are limited to no more than an hour. A funny thing happened when the weekend rolled around, I found them playing together rather than glued to a tablet.
Photo Credit: © Getty Images/patat
Michelle Rabon is a wife and homeschooling mom of three who feels called to help women thrive in their walk with Jesus every day. In 2012, she started Displaying Grace, a ministry that is focused on helping women engage with God’s Word. Michelle has also served in women’s ministry for the past five years seeking to equip women in the local church through Bible study. When she is not writing or teaching, she enjoys reading, being close to the ocean, and drinking a lot of coffee.
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