Judging by the many parenting groups I’m in, there are two things that can magically improve your child’s behavior: do a screen detox, and have them checked for PANS/PANDAS. It’s the stock answer for practically every behavioral question. I’ve always thought that both options were highly dependent on the child, but couldn’t be the final answer because kids are so darned complex.
That said, we finally resorted to a screen detox. For a week. I decided to rule screens out or nail them down, and a detox was the only way to do that. It’s not for the faint of heart, for sure!
Did it work?
When you’re desperate enough you’ll try anything, right? Screen detox for the kids (can’t for the parents, we both rely on tech for our jobs.) It was rough. For an entire week, the kids had no tablet time, no videos, and even no Acellus for schoolwork (that was something of an accident, but whatever, it worked.) They were forced to run around and play with each other, think creatively, and conquer boredom. Wait… what? Don’t they already do that?
Turns out, whatever benefit we think might have actually occurred is so slight that I can’t definitively say the detox caused it. It certainly made the kids more unhappy, but the real reason we were testing it (the Engineer’s behavioral downturn) didn’t really budge. I think I would have to do a detox for a full month to be completely sure.
One slight benefit
I do think it helped with the Destroyer’s anxiety. He slept the entire night for most of the week: no waking up in fear and calling for mommy multiple times a night. I loved that! Then, towards the end of our week, he started back up again. Was it the detox, or was it the stars aligning or the phase of the moon or perhaps, the kind of socks he wore? Who knows.
Even if it helped the Destroyer, that’s only because he was limited in his exposure to books and educational shows. I’m not sure limiting his exposure is a great idea anyway, so I’m undecided on cost/benefit analysis there.
The kids hated it
The kids had a really hard time with the daily quiet time in the afternoons. They are such little social animals that they can’t stand staying alone in their rooms for more than 30 minutes sans tablets. My expectations of continuing our daily routines took a nosedive into extra behavioral issues, problems with safety, and an inability to rest or accomplish practically anything.
They were miserable. Not because they were bored (well, they were bored) but because they weren’t together. Which is the point of quiet time: so that they can get some alone time and I can stop being mommy police for 5 seconds.
I hated it
You know who took the full brunt of a screen detox? Not the kids, nope. Not Mr. Genius, who takes the brunt of working full-time, nope. Me. Yup, I was the one who had to get up earlier in the morning to make sure that no one decided to commit hari-kari in a super creative fashion prompted by boredom. I was the one who was completely unable to rest during quiet time because my daughter decided she was bored, and wanted to unlock everyone’s doors with a magnet so she could go visiting. Remember what I said about creativity? I could do with a little less creativity at the moment.
I was the one who lost sleep, lost sanity, and lost whatever serenity and calm I might have had going for me. I was the one who had to schedule more “stuff” for us to do simply to keep their creativity from running amok. I was the one who needed to go to bed early every night to deal with the added stress, but wasn’t able to do so.
Right now, the kids are doing a video detox for a week. They have their tablets back, but they cannot watch any form of video. We already know they have self-regulation issues with videos, so we’re testing the tablet issue before adding videos back into the mix. As the Engineer said, “it’s better to have tablets with no videos than no tablets at all!”
Please note: I am not even remotely saying that our experience is the “right” way, or is the same for everyone. Kids are all different, they all react differently to things. I know families who have to limit screen time to a set amount per week or the kids have issues. I know families with kids who have unlimited screen time and do great! It really depends on the kid and their personality, challenges, and strengths.
All I’m saying is that a screen detox was not a magic solution for our family. We learned that screens are a powerful motivator (woohoo!) but otherwise? Not helpful. Did we accomplish more? Not really, because I wasn’t able to do anything during quiet time, or I had to rest. Was I less stressed? Ha! Not even. Were the kids happier, more creative, and more social? Not a bit – because they already are.
Screen time detox was not our magic solution. Of course. Because that’s the easy solution. And apparently, my kids don’t do easy – ever!