In our home, Summer 2014 is officially done (the boys go back to school on Tuesday) and so is a little experiment we conducted in our household. I posted a blog about it,  ‘No iPad Minutes This Summer… Period’ in which Jackson, 6 and Asher, 5 were officially cut off from the iPad, the Internet and older cousins’ phones… the boys were going unplugged. Limited TV was still allowed. My husband and I were SERIOUS.

The results are in. Interested in how it all went? Here’s the low down along with the detours we enjoyed – yes, I meant to write ‘enjoyed.’ In the first week the boys probably asked to use the iPad about five times. Each time I stated firmly “no, not until the end of the summer.” But inside I was afraid of the tantrum to follow. Instead there was a bit of whining and asking when summer would end. (Strange question from kids, but I guess in context) Still, that was it. REALLY.

As we moved into July, the boys were busy in kindergarten/1st grade camp or zoo camp or theater camp. A trip to San Diego also filled their days. At home, the backyard served them well, as they played soccer and putted around on the putting green. Swimming was also a biweekly activity. The boys’ first book club meeting had us busy reading “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and more reading followed. The point… they didn’t really miss technology. It kinda felt like the summers I enjoyed as a kid, lots of down time, lots of play time and lots of fun.

In August, the boys spent time with family -just hanging out- and nights of never-ending cousin sleepovers. I would occasionally ask the boys – really tell the boys -okay, work extraordinarily hard to brain-wash the boys about the pitfalls of too much technology/screen time on their developing brains. At times they really bought into it declaring, “Mommy, even when we can use the iPad again, we won’t.” Followed by,  “It’s just bad for your brain.” Yeeeesssssssss! My plan was working!

But then, in mid August, the first detour: a friend’s birthday party, with a serious challenge, was inching closer on the calendar. This party was not to be missed… for two reasons. One, my boys love this kid -so do I- and two, there was the well known fact that a video game truck would be part of the festivities. What to do? Actually, it was simple. For me this was a way to show the boys that video games/technology can be alright, just as long as it’s all used wisely. Not to mention, this was a special occasion. The boys attended the party which also included gobs of sugar displays (first a cake, then an ice cream truck and for the grand finale, a piñata), but who cares- it was fun and sometimes you’ve just gotta let loose.  The boys played the games, but I didn’t have to pry them out of the truck (the sugar helped do that!)

It’s now the final week before school starts and the sun has set on summer. The ‘no technology’ experiment is just about complete, but not before the mammoth-sized detour we were so fatefully guaranteed. We came upon it on our family’s last hoorah of the season, a trip to Amelia Island in Florida. The boys took the flight in stride, without headphones or the iPad. They played their own made-up mind-reading game with sticks (very old school), slept, ate and talked. We were a bit loud, but I don’t think we bothered too many people. On to the hotel. And then out of nowhere, a shock for us all… none of us could have ever imagined. We see the most unbelievable, magnificent, flashing lighted game room ever. The magical noises inside the room drew kids in like zombies, ready for them to jump onto ‘black leather gaming seats,’ grab onto a huge assortment of hand held devices and become mesmerized by screens for hours, possibly days. The teenager running the room even said if there’s a game you’d like to play and we don’t have it we’ll go out and get it for you. I’m not kidding! Kind of like ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,’ but ‘Charlie and the Video Game Factory.’

This picture does not do the game room justice. More video pods, foosball, a mini movie theater…

This did not look good. We were only a week away from success. We were practically “technology” free all summer long. How could I keep them from this game room which we will pass by every single day for five days, at least half a dozen times a day? Again, what to do? Again, it was simple. We were on vacation and my boys may never again see this amazing world that only a kid could truly appreciate. We let them in and let them at it. We told them this was one of those special occasions and all was well in their world and ours. We figured that after days filled with swimming at the pool, swimming in the ocean, searching for shark teeth (Jack found 16, Asher, none- that was not fun) collecting and examining sea shells and lots more, that at night the boys, along with their cousins, were allowed to go to the game room – on their own I might add – and just play VIDEO GAMES. It was done. We fell a week short in our experiment. Still, it was okay. GAME OVER.

Now the question, how do we move forward? Before the summer ban on technology, the boys were allowed 15 minutes a day on the iPad. Now though, the rule is no iPad during the school week, unless it’s for school. The boys are now in Kindergarten and 1st grade. But they can have weekend time- 1/2 an hour on Saturday and 1/2 an hour on Sunday… Period. The longer I can keep them plugged into real life, the better.

If you might be thinking of shifting or limiting screen time/technology time in your family, here’s my advice:

-State the new rules clearly, make sure the kids understand what is going to be happening. They need to know what is expected in order to succeed.
-BE FIRM. Don’t give in or change your new rules unless it’s really a special occasion in your mind. (It’s okay to be flexible sometimes, flexibility is a part of real life.)
-Be realistic with yourself. Set goals that you can achieve with your kids. What makes sense for your family?  (Some sound advice from my husband)
-Make sure you replace that screen time with a new activity. You want to create a new “healthy habit.”