The Electronic-Free Zone

I’ve been sending you all over the web the last couple of weeks, so today you get a break. You can stay right here and read my rant about kids and electronics.

As you may know, I have three children. When they were infants, then babies, then toddlers, then school-aged, I read to them constantly. I continued to read to them as they got older, probably long past the time when many parents stop reading to their children. I loved reading to them.

But something else happened as they grew older–they started to spend more time on their electronics than reading books. And by electronics I mean anything that can be plugged in or has a battery. This list includes, but is not limited to, television, DVD players, computers, video games, tablets, cell phones, and personal electronics of the iPod variety. I understand that my husband and I are at least partially responsible for this (when the electronics are on, the kids aren’t interacting. No interacting means no fighting and the lure of peace and quiet is just too much to resist sometimes), but we’re not going to accept full blame. We still encourage reading every single day, but the kids are old enough now to be making decisions for themselves. And they are choosing, to our great dismay, to spend time on electronics instead of with books.

Raise your hand if you remember spending summers as a kid playing outside and spending all your indoor time with your nose stuck in a book.

Sadly, for our family as well as for many, many other families, this just doesn’t happen anymore without a great deal of argument. The kids want to play games on the tv or the computer or their handheld devices. They want to read the latest funny Tweets and the latest gruesome food challenges that somebody has dreamed up.

What to do?

In all fairness, I don’t like to spend tons of time outside in the summertime because it’s just way too hot and humid. And my kids don’t like the beach, which is just a couple minutes away and to which almost every other family in our area flocks in the summer. So we’re a bit stuck indoors sometimes, and I’m okay with that.

But what happens when we’re stuck indoors? Inevitably someone wants to turn on some electronic and spend hours upon hours with his or her face glued to an LED screen becoming visibly dumber.

So we’ve instituted electronic-free days in our house. We’re having one today (electronic-free does not apply to my husband or to me, since we’re both working, but it might be an interesting experiment). I must admit, it’s not going well. My husband and I are both working, so the kids are fighting like cats. I have been tempted at least eight thousand times to let them back on their electronics just to get some work done.

But I work through the noise and try to get them to solve their own problems, and we continue to have the electronic-free days because I am convinced that eventually they will do something with their time that is creative, imaginative, and fun.

A friend of mine has a rule at her house–if one of her sons wants to play an electronic, he is allowed to play for 15 minutes after he has read for 20 minutes. I think it’s a great idea; we may institute it in our house.

There are other things we can do to keep the kids off electronics, too. My son went to Boy Scout camp for a week and had fun. One of my daughters will be a camp counselor for a week in August. One of my daughters has a job that keeps her busy during the days. We try to do things outside when it’s not too hot, like bike riding and going for walks.

And there’s always my favorite solution: read a book!! I am constantly offering to take them to the library. In fact, they’ve taken me up on today’s offer and we’re leaving as soon as I’ve written this post.

But I’m always looking for new ideas. What about it, readers? Any good ideas for keeping the kids off electronics during the summer?

Until next time,

Amy

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