Throughout the day we spend a lot of time staring at screens, perhaps more than we realize. TV and computers have become such a part of everyday life that it is not realistic to give them up completely.
However, taking a small break can help put into perspective just how much we have come to rely on this technology for our daily entertainment.
Consider going screen free in your home for one week. This means no TV, no video games, and limiting computer use to work and school related tasks for seven days.
A successful screen-free week requires some planning and preparation. If you announce one day that there will be no TV or video games for a week, it is likely to be viewed as a punishment.
Instead, sit down together as a family and talk about how much time each of you currently spends at a screen. Then, ask everyone for suggestions of other fun, inexpensive ways to pass the time.
Once you have a good selection of possible activities, go over them and pick a few that everyone can agree on.
Some examples of TV alternatives could be:
• Read aloud or tell stories. Ask your child to choose a book that interests her and read it aloud. For young children, take time to look at and talk about the pictures. Older children can take turns reading with you. Instead of reading from a book, you might want to tell your own story. Describe an adventure you had as a child, or reminisce about the day your child was born. Start a make-believe story and have each family member contribute one sentence at a time.
• Play games. Choose games that are fun for the whole family. You might enjoy an evening of board games, card games, charades or I-Spy.
• Get some exercise. As a family, go for a walk or bike ride, go skating or tobogganing, go bowling or swimming. Spend some time at a park playing on the play structure, kicking a soccer ball or playing tag.
• Share hobbies and interests. Give each person an opportunity to choose what he or she enjoys most, and spend just 30 minutes participating in this activity. Over the course of seven days, you might find yourself playing with dolls, painting a picture, listening to music, baking cookies, or building a model plane.
When the week is over, the screens can be turned back on. However, before doing so, take some time to talk as a family about the week.
What did each person like the best about the last seven days? You may decide to keep at least one or two days screen free so you can continue to enjoy spending time together doing some of your favourite activities.
You can set a good example for your children by letting them see you read a book instead of surfing the Net, and putting on the radio or a CD rather than TV for background noise.
Spend your free time at an activity you enjoy, and take advantage of every opportunity to spend time with your family.
Shawna Munro works at the Elspeth Reid Family Resource Centre, a facility of Child and Family Services of Western Manitoba that offers
parenting information and support.
» 255 Ninth St., Brandon