It’s been close to a month since our electronics-free summer period ended, and I have to say, it had positive, lasting effects.
My daughter does the occasional electronic now, but she never did much to begin with. She’ll watch a movie once in a while, or she’ll do something fun on the computer or iPad, but usually she prefers to do other things.
Once August arrived, my son spent a day or two almost completely plugged in, but the novelty wore off pretty quickly. Now, four weeks later, he’ll watch a movie, or get into a game on the iPad, but more often he sits for long periods playing with Bucky Balls, making up plays and performances with his sister, playing board games, or reading books for hours. We’ve started the year’s homeschool, though, so that helps keep him occupied in other ways. But when my son does do something electronic, it’s usually watching a worthwhile movie, experimenting with computer programming with Kodu, or playing very educational iPad apps like DragonBox+. So he is plugged in some of the time, but he’s learning about popular culture, computer programming, or Algebra. Not bad for an eight-year-old.
You can read back through my posts on this experiment:
But I will also sum up here. The disadvantage of having the kids completely unplugged was not being able to show them something cool that I found on the internet. But that was about it.
The advantages were many. My kids learned how to entertain themselves, hardly ever proclaiming boredom. They learned to deal with the challenge of not having an easy answer for what to do (though the “easy answer” did eventually become reading books, not something I complained about). They spent quality time together. And, there are the lasting effects of now having the tools to have control over and responsibility for their own entertainment.
I doubt we’ll do this every summer, but I’m sure we’ll do a week here and there of no-electronic time. It’s good for them to be reminded about how much else there is to do in the world.
Whether you do this for a weekend, a week, a month, or longer, I highly recommend unplugging your kids for a period of time, especially if they are the type, like my son, to really lose themselves in a screen. An extended period of time without relying on that kind of immediate gratification and entertainment forces them to be self-reliant and take responsibility for occupying their free time.