After listening to John Bytheway’s fabulous CD titled “Turn Off the TV and Get a Life!” our family decided to give up electronics for a month. No TV, DVD’s, game boys, game cube, CD players, ipods, mp3 players, texting, and even no computers. OUCH! What would we do for a whole month! We were determined to take back our family life and stop being so influenced by the media. We had noticed that sometimes we were in the same room, but not “together” (one child on the computer, another on an Ipod, and another on a gameboy, etc.) We were losing touch with our kids and the world was sneaking in.
When I tell people about this month long electronic fast, I inevitably get one of two responses: “Why?” and “Are you kidding? What do you do with your kids?”
What did we do for a month? Well, we read more, wrote more, painted rooms and decorated. We played games, served in our community, and celebrated international dinners. We invited friends over for game nights and had guest speakers. We worked on scouts and Personal Progress and Duty to God. We enjoyed talking, laughing at jokes, and playing games during dinner. We enjoyed being together! The benefits far outweighed the month without electronics! Did it change our life forever? No, we turned the TV back on and enjoy our family Friday night DVD’s, but, we know that we can survive without the constant hum of the computer or background music. We appreciate our electronics a lot more, but we’ve learned to rely on ourselves for entertainment instead of the world. We like it so much, we’ve had “No Electronics Month in February” for the last five years.
You can do it too. Here is how to play:
1. Have a family home evening about the influence of the Media in your family’s life. Listen to the CD as a family and discuss how your family could benefit from a month free of electronics. It must be a family choice—it doesn’t work unless everyone is doing it. Set boundaries on TV time, computers, etc.
2. As a family, brainstorm a list of things to do. Pull out books they can choose from for a family read-aloud. Have each child choose the top five things they want to do most (paint, decorate, etc. ) Parent’s make a plan to buy supplies, or time, to help those top five happen! It takes more time on the parent’s part…plan to be involved!
3. Turn it off and unplug it.
4. Put electronic games in a box, tape it closed, and put them in the garage.
5. Pull out “things to do,” You can’t just take something away and not replace it with something else… make sure that you’ve got games or puzzles, or activities to fill the void.
6. The Computer: The first year we did this, we only used the computer at the library—last year we allowed 20 minutes a day on our home computers to check email; no surfing the web, facebook, etc. not even EDUCATIONAL games or websites.
7. Friday night video night and Saturday morning cartoons were the times that our kids missed TV the most. So, each child got to plan activities on one of the Friday nights that month. Saturday mornings we went and played basketball.
8. The Super Bowl or Winter Olympics were the only real sore spots. We allowed ourselves to watch them –at a friend’s house.
9. We kept a list of things that we “missed” that month… The list gets shorter every year.
Electronic Fasting Tips:
What do I do with all that extra time? Put your kids in charge of scheduled activities. (like Friday nights, or Saturday mornings)Give rewards for reading. Take family field trips or a vacation. Do not let your family just camp out at the neighbor’s house because yours is “sooooo boring” now.
Crafts/make a quilt/ paint/ sports/teach the kids to cook/ started a family newsletter/ catch up on scrapbooks, volunteer, do genealogy work, write letters, go through your closets, etc. If you are like our family, we buy things but they are underutilized (memberships to the zoo, museums, recreational center, etc.). We made it a priority to go and use them at least once that month.
Games and Puzzles: Games are an incredible learning tool. They are not only fun, but also teach reading and following directions, strategy, conversation skills, and the art of winning and losing graciously. We opened up the game closet, wrote them down the titles and challenged ourselves to play EVERY game we owned. (we had 72) We started playing games only at night as a family. We soon realized that to get through all of our games we would have to play more often! So “Card Games” at lunch started. We had days of Risk, Monopoly, and Life, and had Checker and Chess tournaments. We discovered some games that we could pass on to the thrift store, and decided to get a few more. We invited friends over for “family game night”..
Books: We are always big on reading and going to the library, this month was no exception. Each person in the family chose a “Classic Book” from the bookshelf and planned to read it. We discussed books more often and read a book as a family. Everyone presented their favorite author. We kept track of the books that we read together. We pull out every joke book and comic book we have.
The Computer: How will I ever get by without my computer? It was challenging, but we found that not everything needs to be typed up. Assignments can be written by hand. Kids can look up information in those old fashioned things called books and encyclopedias! Do you really need to surf the web for hours on end? Do your kids need to watch YouTube to see the latest funny videos? Don’t get me wrong, we LOVE the internet and our computer (My husband is a computer analyst, we have a daughter who is a graphic artist, a son that makes animated movies, not to mention the rest of us who are on it constantly!) We use our computers daily, but we made ourselves use it less!
Can you really give up electronics for a whole month? Can giving up electronics for a month out of the year change your life? A resounding YES to both questions! We found connecting with our family and shutting the world out for just a little while made us a stronger family and we ended up celebrating our togetherness.