I am happy to report that the method of a "Screen Free" block of time worked very well. My teenage son was skeptical at first. Of course...my teenage son is always skeptical when I present something new. He was convinced that keeping track of screen time was working great. But when we discussed our screen time on Monday, he soon realized that we were way over the limits we had set for ourselves. And my daughter probably quadrupled her allotted screen time.
At 5:45 p.m. we were eating dinner and my son said "But this isn't fair, by the time we finish dinner it will be 6:00 p.m. and we will have to turn everything off." I said "So?" He replied "So I should be able to use the computer right now." And I said "But we are eating dinner." He said "Exactly." And so I tried to explain to him that he was completely missing the point. The goal is not to sit in front of a screen for every possible second until it is time to turn everything off. The goal this week is to reduce our screen time. So trying to make up for the lost screen time is completely counterproductive. He still wasn't buying it, but I persevered.
The clock struck 6:00 p.m. and I turned off all the screens in the house. After a moment of uncomfortable silence, we looked at each other and my son said "So now what do we do?". I said "Well, what are some of the things on our list? How about if we take the dog for a walk?" My daughter hadn't felt well that day, so she stayed home and read a book while my son and I took the dog for a walk. We both really enjoyed the time together and the chance to get out of the house for some fresh air.
When we returned, we decided to play a card game and then my son showed my daughter and I a couple of card tricks. Then we sat down and played a game of Pictionary with much laughter and enjoyment. By now it was 7:30 p.m. and I told my daughter it was time for a bath. While she was taking a bath, I sat down and played my guitar. (Something I haven't done for months)
By the time 8:00 p.m. rolled around, we all sat down together and watched American Idol. And we were able to watch it without commercials because my son had TiVo'd the program during our screen free time. Just another added bonus...no commercials!
So all in all the plan worked quite well. And I didn't anticipate how much I would enjoy turning everything off for two hours. Since I run a business from home, I am constantly using every spare moment to catch up on some project. The reason they call it "Running a Business" is because you are always RUNNING, and you never catch up so there is always something to do. But turning off the computer and cell phone, enabled me to just relax and decompress a bit.