Last week our family participated in a seven-day media detox, along with a few hundred other people from our church. We gave up TV, movies, radio, social media, and video games for one week. It was a very eye opening experience for all of us, and I thought it would be helpful to share some of our takeaways here.
We learned that all kids everywhere hate the idea of having to give up media.
Whenever I would ask our boys’ friends, “How’s the media fast going?” They would usually respond with statements like, “Terrible!” That didn’t mean they had cheated and not upheld the commitment to stay off of media, it meant that it was painful to actually give those things up. Aha… Pay attention to the things that cause you pain. Their appetites had grown accustomed to regular feedings, and they did not even know what to do with themselves without screen time.
On day 1, I asked my kids to rate how hard they thought the upcoming week would be… on a scale of 1 to 5, 5 being the most excruciating. They both circled the 5. They also both complained multiple times on day 1 that they were BORED. (As if by a divine stroke of torture, day 1 and day 2 were both “winter break” days from school). We had prepared ourselves beforehand by having them make a list of “things to do when I’m bored,” but that list was completely uninteresting to them by the time day 1 rolled around. I work from home, and it just so happened that I was in the throes of a major project. I needed them to be occupied. By about 2pm, my well of “why don’t you do this? why don’t you do that?” had completely run dry, so I packed us up in the minivan and drove to the indoor skate park we frequent where they could skate and I could work on my laptop.
My takeaway from day 1 was just how much I rely on screens to keep my kids quiet and focused. I felt like I was going back to the toddler years with the need to offer constant structure and direction. Note to self: must train kids to be independently productive and content without media.
Day 2 was a bit better because this time I planned on a trip to the skate park. I also made time after we got home to play games with them and engage more intentionally. My boys love competition, and a card game is a much easier sell when they can try to beat mom or dad. My takeaway on day 2 was that intentionality always wins. I often default to media instead of being intentional.
The rest of the week was definitely easier as they headed back to school. As the days went on, they complained less and less, finding other interesting pursuits (both worked on music with dad and loved it!). My takeaway from these days was that our appetites are influenced by what we starve and what we feed. Starving media gave way to creativity.
As parents, we experienced the same things. I was able to tackle a very ominous project with new clarity and peace because my mind was less distracted (AFTER the kids went back to school, of course). My husband also noticed he was more productive and focused at work. We both read more, and we spent more time together.
At the end of the week, I had the kids once again rate the level of difficulty they experienced giving up media for a week. On a scale of 1 to 5, this time they gave it a 4. I admit, I was hoping it would be a 3 or a 2 even, and that I would be able to help them see the contrast: “See, you thought it was going to be horrible, but it was actually not so bad!” After careful reconsideration, I realized that’s not the best lesson in all of this anyway. It was hard for them. Yes, it got a little bit easier, but it was still hard. And they still did it. It reinforced a family value we have, a mantra I repeat to them often, “DO HARD THINGS.” Champions overcome great obstacles and adversity… that’s what makes them champions.
We went off media for a week. We survived. We learned, and we’re much better for it. We may even do media detoxes more often (shhh… don’t tell the kiddos).
Have you ever done a media detox? If not, it could be a great time to embark on this brave journey!