When I was pregnant with my daughter, we decided to raise her media-free for at least the first few years. I carefully considered how to implement the plan of eliminating television, tablets, and yes, even cell phones from her life.
I wasn’t a big TV watcher in the first place and was tired of paying an overpriced cable bill, so getting rid of those was a no-brainer for me. I spend hours tucked behind a monitor at work, so it wasn’t hard to put away the laptop and tablet from the time I got home until my daughter went to sleep.
Now the cell phone, that is a different story in the media-free game plan. It was a real eye-opener to see how difficult it was to put. the. phone. away. When my daughter was younger, I could sneak in a text here or an email check there, but now that she is two and a half, her interest in “playing with phone” has skyrocketed. I imagine it will only increase as she gets older.
I was faced with a decision; change my own habits or give in to screen time. I decided to make a conscious effort not to use my phone for the three hours between getting home from work and tucking my little into bed. I had no idea how hard it would be, nor what an addict I had become. I don’t use the word addict lightly; it is warranted here.
After committing to my decision, I put my phone on the top of my bookshelf as soon as I got home. Out of sight, out of mind, right? Wrong. I constantly heard the buzz of an email coming through or a text popping up, and I found myself reaching blindly for that little, glowing box. And then I heard, “Mama, phone! I-ya play with phone.” Busted. But it wasn’t just that I got caught that was so alarming. It was that I wasn’t even aware I was doing it, every 5, 10 or 15 minutes! This was going to be more of a challenge than I realized, but I made the commitment and was going to stick with it.
In all the research I did about the benefits to my daughter of being media-free, I had not considered how it would impact me to limit my own media usage. While it definitely took time getting used to being “disconnected” even for that short period of time each evening, I can already see the benefits for both my daughter and myself.
I am more engaged with her, which we both enjoy. Instead of thinking about work, I am keyed into the little, positive reinforcement things that are so important to provide and be a part of. Like high-fives, and comments such as, “Thank you for using those gentle hands you are using with the dog.” or “I am so proud of you for drawing on the paper instead of the wall, and putting your crayons back in the cup.” It is easy to catch the “no-nos” but it is truly important to catch the “yes-yeses!” even more. When my daughter receives more positive attention, the tantrums (big plus!) and the “nos” are noticeably fewer and further between.
I also feel more relaxed because I have learned to block out work for that period of time, which I need. I set aside ten minutes to check emails after dinner to game plan for the night, but otherwise, the emails and texts can wait a few hours. The moments of time with my daughter are now, and I will never get them back if I let them slip away.