Beginning in November, we instituted screen free Sundays for our family. While there are some exceptions (explained below), we do not use computers, televisions or internet linked telephones on Sunday. We also do not use ipods or other go to movies on this day. This is certainly not a technology free day for our house — we use cameras, microwaves, and the washing machine! We just choose to break our connections with the electronic world for one day each week.
I was motivated to begin pushing for a screen free day after reading The Winter of our Disconnect by Susan Maushart. While this brave woman with 3 teenagers even went without electricity for several weeks to break their electronics habit, I felt we neither had the extreme problem with electronics in our family, nor would I have any support from my husband in taking such a drastic step. Also, since the older kids use the computer for the school, such a drastic step would not be possible during the school year. However, the excellent results she had in encouraging her children to pursue other interests inspired me. I also recognized the need in myself to build better levels of concentration. I found myself breaking off my reading to check on blogs I was following or to look for a recipe. I wanted to regain control of my own use of technology.
Since our screen free Sundays started just as the cooler weather began, we have not spent our days outdoors as much as we surely will during the summer. Instead, most of our Sundays have been spent reading, cooking, and hanging out together. One Sunday, Shandy took Max to a car show for his monthly date night. Several Sundays we have had our girls book club meeting. The guys like to go get a coffee at McDonald’s and hang out there together for a while. We have also resurrected board games.
Yesterday, after coming home from a nice dinner with Grandma and Grandpa, I took time to read a short story to the whole family. The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County by Mark Twain was a hit with everyone. Later, Shandy and the older kids got out Sequence and played while I pursued my “assigned reading” — I have assigned myself a certain number of pages so that I can finish my books from the library before they have to be returned unfinished.
We do make exceptions to the screen free rule — specifically, running time. Although I often run without my ipod, a distance of 14 miles in the cold can be a little intimidating with no distraction. Also, Shandy hates to run or workout without his music, and since we always work out on Sundays, there is an exception made during exercise time only.
I highly recommend setting a day aside to turn off the electronics and focus on other activities. It has really helped us feel more satisfied about keeping our lives focused on things that are real and important. Have you tried a screen free day? How has it affected your family?