On my summer list: Less screen time

This is the time of year when I make a list of things I definitely want to do this summer.

Some of it is just for fun, and I consult with all the kids to make sure nobody’s idea of fun gets overlooked (which can happen to the quieter kids in a big family). Visit that aquarium before our membership runs out! Learn how to make mozzarella! Go back to that state park with the waterfalls! Try our hand at paper marbling! Spend time at the ocean!

Some of it is things I must force myself to do: Teach at least one teenager to drive! Do something about the attic! Do something about the bathroom ceiling and the mold thereon! Do something about the teenagers in general!

There is also one thing I must force myself to do, that the kids definitely don’t want to do, but it’s so we can all have fun: Institute a weekly screen-free evening. We already do this during Lent, and most years, we do it during Advent, too. It’s stupidly hard. But the rewards are almost immediate; and I hope they are long-term, as well.

The thing about screen time — whether it’s video games, or TV, or movies, or social media or whatever — is that it doesn’t just take up the time it takes up. If you spend two hours staring at a screen, it’s very hard to just snap back into other activities where you use your body and heart and senses and imagination at the end of those two hours. Screen time leeches the life out of the rest of your day, and makes everything non-screen begin to feel arduous and irrelevant, and before you know it, you can’t really remember how to do anything else. So you don’t. You just look at your screen.

I say this as a screen fiend. I have a very hard time putting my phone down, even if I’m busy and really need to do something else, or if I’m exhausted and really need to sleep, or if everything I see and hear on my screen is intensely irritating or deathly boring. It’s just so easy to scroll, scroll, scroll, and the more I scroll, the harder it is to do anything else. So I have a lot of sympathy for my kids when they don’t want to put their devices down.

But I’m still their mom, and I still get to say what goes on in my house. Here’s one of the great secrets of doing what’s best for children: It often forces you into doing things that are good for you, too, even if only so they can’t accuse you of hypocrisy (which is a child’s greatest joy in life).

Read the rest of my latest for Our Sunday Visitor

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