Our Screen Free Experiment

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Being a mom is exhausting. Being a mom of a child with special needs is exhausting. Being a homeschool mom of a child with special needs is exhausting. In short, life is exhausting. In my exhaustion, I used to look forward to those times during the day when I could set the kids up in front of a show or on the iPad, so I could get a break and get a few things done around the house.

Junior has been in Occupational Therapy (OT) since he was 2 years old. Because of his hearing loss, he has some sensory issues, and sometimes gets frustrated from his speech delay. He was acting out, and having multiple meltdowns a day. I couldn’t take him anywhere because I just didn’t know how he was going to react. I started to withdraw from my friends and was praying for answers. Usually, to calm him down, I would turn on a show or give him the iPad.

About a month ago, I came across a book conveying the harm of screen time on a child’s brain. As a last resort, I decided to try the 3 week “media fast” outlined by the book, hoping it would improve Junior’s behavior and Tater’s concentration.

I was prepared for a struggle. I imagined days and days of screaming and whining and “I’m bored”. I knew it was going to add to my already heavy workload to have to figure out how to keep them occupied.

Guess what happened?

Day 1…We stayed out of the house most of the day at the playground to eliminate temptation. The kids asked for the iPad or a show a few times, but weren’t overly distraught about not getting it.

Day 2…Blocks came out. Lego creations were built. Hot Wheels had races. They only asked for a show once.

Day 5…Tater pulled me aside and said, “Can the media fast last for 3 months instead of 3 weeks? I feel so much better.

Day 9…Books, books, more books. We were going to the library every day to keep up with their reading!

Day 13…Junior’s attention went from running around the house and not playing with anything for more than 30 seconds, to sitting at a single task for 15 minutes.

Day 16…One meltdown for Junior in almost two weeks…which is amazing, since we were having at least one meltdown every day.

Day 21…I finally let them watch one movie that was on the “approved” list. They sat mesmerized for an hour. Then they didn’t ask for another show again after that.

It’s Day 24 now. Junior has only watched one movie and one TV show. I have received countless compliments about how well my kids behave in public. Just today, we went to a birthday lunch and the kids sat for 2 hours at the restaurant. They were engaging, they colored, and not once did they ask to play on the phone. This never would have happened a month ago.

Amazing things happened in the 3 weeks we did the media fast. Next time, I’m going to tell you how you can do it yourself at home. It wasn’t as painful as I thought it was going to be, and I am so incredibly happy with the results. I hope I can be an encouragement for someone else to try a media fast if their child is struggling with attention issues, sensory issues, and behavioral problems.

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