Updated: Apr 23, 2019
Spring is a time for a lot of us to do some much-needed cleaning or tidying. It’s the time to watch some Marie Kondo on Netflix and learn how to de-clutter the stuff in our home that has been accumulating over that last few months. We can learn from the best and feel confident in taking control of part of our life that has gotten away from us. Spring cleaning is great to do with things in our house, but it can also be a good time to do some screen-time cleaning.
Over the winter months, it has been easy to stay inside and focus on our screens. The cold weather encourages us to retreat from it and stay inside. This is not dependent on the season, but most of us are glued to our screens when we are inside. Either we are scrolling and posting things on our social media pages. Or we are trying to get to that next level in our online game. We have been watching any type of video we can think of for hours on end. These are common ways for us to loss track of time when we are inside.
Spending more time than normal on screens is a habit we have gotten into over the past winter months. Without knowing it, we have slowly cluttered our lives with more and more time feeding our desire for constant entertainment. Screens and the Internet has been the unending source for curing our boredom. But, with spring rapidly approaching, will we continue to be a recluse by staying indoors and fixating on our screens? This would be easy to do if we are not intentional about changing some of our behaviors and mindsets.
We could spend the rest of the year concentrating most of our free time on a screen. We could continue to lose out on opportunities to make and strengthen positive relationships. We could continue to miss out on fantastic experiences that require our undivided attention. We could continue to miss out on developing ourselves physically, emotionally and spiritually. Or, we could take a lesson from Marie Kondo and say, “Thank you,” then “Goodbye” to the things that do not spark joy for our lives.
This spring could be the time to say goodbye to the hours of mindless screen time and free yourself to enjoy life. You can use this time to fully experience life around you, not the Internet around you. It could be a hard habit to break. So, what would some benefits be? What would be the reason to put down my phone and engage myself in non-screen activities? There are some reasons above, but let’s go a little deeper.
Real relationships are built face-to-face not face-to-screen. We can make some connections online and talk to our friends through the Internet, but it is not the same as spending quality time with someone. Instead of using an app to talk with your friends, meet up somewhere and talk with them in person. Start to spend more quality time face-to-face with your friends and see what happens. You might feel emotionally closer to them. You might start to get to know and trust that person more. If nothing else, simply putting away your phone completely away and giving your full attention to your friend will speak loud and clear that you care about and value them.
You can also strengthen your relationships in your family by reducing your screen time. Often our family relationships suffer the worst when we are spending a lot of time on screens. Tension starts to build between siblings because one wants to spend time with the other but all the other wants to do is play Fortnite. Parents are fighting with their kids to put down their screens and finish their homework or get ready for bed. Couples can fight too if one feels their partner is distracted by Facebook or checking their emails and not giving them the attention. Screens can be at the heart of relationship problems within a family.
One way to fight back against the powers of the screens is to give your family a reason to get off their screens. When we interact with our family, really give them our undivided attention. Let that person know they are valuable, and you are truly interested in what they have to say. Hear what your child did at school and respond with enthusiasm and excitement. “You learned about long division? That sounds super hard. What did you think about it? Tell me about the best part of your day!” or “You got ready for your game on Friday? Sounds like fun! What did you most like about practice? What do you think about the game coming up?”
Now, like a lot of kids, your child may not give you anything when you ask about their day. That’s okay. If that’s the case, you don’t have to pry. Simply be there for them if they want to talk. When they do want to talk, be ready to express interest in what they say. The more we sincerely engage with our family, the more they will respond with less of a desire to engage with a screen. A lot of children look to the Internet and screens when they don’t feel they are getting enough attention. When you provide meaningful and sincere engagement with your child, they will look to you for that attention, not a screen.
Another thing you can do to combat screen-induced paralysis is do engaging activities. Find an activity that can be done on a consistent basis that could replace screen time. Spend time around the dinner table with all devices in a designated area away from the table. Use that time at the dinner table to talk. Draw each other into positive conversations. As the parent, model reading, working on a craft or hobby or spending time with others. Board or card games are another good way to engage with each other. “My family still has a Wii and plays Mario Kart. Is that okay to play with the family?” Is the activity bringing you and your family closer together or is it an isolating you from others? If it is bringing your family together, then there is nothing wrong with Mario Kart.
This next phrase is very important: video games are NOT bad. They can be fun and used to bring people together. There are addicting qualities to video games, but that does not mean you and your family should not come within 20-feet of them. With controlled use, it can be a fun hobby.
During this spring, I encourage you to put down your devices and pick up more friendships. Spend more quality time with others talking and doing things you both enjoy. Focus your attention on others and less on your screens. Be the model for this behavior. In all your interactions, fully engage with others. With friends, co-workers, family and people you meet for the first time. It can be awkward and hard at first. But like doing some spring cleaning or tidying in your home, the benefits outweigh the momentary challenge. Start to say, “Thank you” then “Goodbye” to your many hours of screen time. Fully experience life around you rather than distracted with screens. You will see how life and relationships around you will spark joy.