Here's an update on a fortnight with significantly reduced screen time.
Children numbers 2, 3, and 4 have suffered little withdrawal. They have happily replaced screen time with a giant weekend long, Lego fest (see the photo), books, a two-hour Monopoly marathon, and lots of imaginary play. Two of the kids went on a long bike-ride yesterday with Rowan - in the rain - quite an adventure. There's just more time - they aren't trying to fit in all their Wii/TV/screen turns.
However ... the number 1, almost a teenager, child, is having some struggles and is politely protesting with well articulated arguments. He and his friends at school have been discussing strategies to convince us to modify this 'radical, oppressive, overprotective' crackdown! I respect a well thought out argument - we may modify it for him, to show that we're listening to him and willing to compromise.
The number 5 child is struggling too. She gets tired so screen time is an easy fall back position for her when she can't work out what else to do. Her creativity is quite high, but she runs out of ideas as she gets tired. It's interesting though. When I consistently say no, even though she asks many times a day, she will eventually find something else to do. It's tempting to give in when she asks - but I've been surprised how quickly she'll give up. I think she's just checking again and again, to see if I still mean what I say.
I was encouraged when I was listening to the radio on my way to work on Thursday morning. Talking about the obesity crisis, an expert said that children need 60 minutes of exercise a day. That can be quite hard to get in a day when they are doing a lot of stuff before and after school. However, turning the TV off helps - it just stops them from sitting in the one spot for a long time.
And as an aside, walking to and from school helps too - even when some are crying the whole way home because they are too 'tired' to walk. Maybe crying burns up some calories!