Three Days: How and Why to Do an Electronic DeTox

3 Days: How and Why to do an Electronic Media Detox

About a month ago I meant to write a post saying how awesome all the kids were doing.  For the first time in years we had a few WEEKS that were good with virtually no major meltdowns.  Even better, the kids were playing for extended periods of times without requiring constant mediation from me.  It was something I thought I would NEVER see.  Mr Rockstar has never been able to just play.  It felt like we had arrived at a restful oasis.

Fast forward to this week, post Thanksgiving holiday craziness, post sickness movie and video game binge, mid Christmas break (i.e. off our regular routine), etc and the kids were driving me crazy.  The girls have been whining and crying about everything.  Mr Rockstar was getting upset over EVERY LITTLE THING.  He would obnoxiously demand I get him a glass of milk and then if I calmly reminded him to ask nicely he would just start calling me “mean mommy” or a list of other names.  His sisters would bother him so he would just smack them on the head.  He would be out of sorts and want to snuggle with his sisters (but his snuggles are more like wrestling with a monkey when he is in one of those moods) and he just would not leave them alone despite their protests.  It just never stopped!!!

There was no compliance.

There was no peace.

There was no calm.

There was no sanity.

I finally broke down and decided it was time to unplug the kids.  When we did it for an extended time this summer I was shocked at what a difference it made in the kids play, attention, and mood.  The benefits lasted months.  Unfortunately, the iPad and cartoon time slowly built back up and along with it returned the poor attitudes and inability to play or cope with little problems.


Monday this week I cut them off.  I warned them the night before, that because of their lack of compliance and their poor attitude of late, ALL of the screens were disappearing.  At the time of my proclamation Mr Rockstar just laughed and said he didn’t care one wit.  But the next day when they realized there was no PBS kids, there was no Minecraft, there wasn’t even any educational games the whining started.

The good news is since this was our second go round the kids gave in pretty quickly.   It only took 3 days to get my sweet kids back.  Day 1 they cried.  Day 2 they found substitute entertainment (i.e. books on tape).  By Day 3 they were creatively playing with much less input from me.

Tips and Tricks

Since none of my children are proficient readers yet, audiobooks seem to be the best balm while on an electronic de-tox.  Actually audiobooks are the only way I survive when we unplug.  Anytime I would usually resort to giving them an iPad or turning on cartoons, a good audiobook usually contents them.  This morning we had Mr Rockstar’s regular appointment with his psychiatrist.  I refused to give in and take the iPads so I was dreading how the appointment would turn out.  The last thing you want is your child’s psychiatrist to think all your kids are out of control and oh yeah btw we homeschool.  Sigh.  So I loaded up an old iPod with a bunch of read a long books and put it inside our handy Portable Speaker Case (the iPod plugs in and gets zippered inside the little speaker) so the kids don’t even see it).

It worked just as well if not better than the iPads.  The doctor and his assistants were shocked.  They couldn’t believe how well a couple audiobooks pacified the kids.  They thought I had some new fangled device and wanted to know where they could get one for their kids.  I had to explain that it was an ancient iPod, in an ancient speaker case, loaded with ancient audio books.

So which audio books do they listen to?  When I was a child we had these short Disney read aloud cassette tapes.  We could follow along in a little book listening for the chimes to know when to turn the page. Thankfully my mom kept all those books so my children can still enjoy them.  This summer I pulled out my old walkman and let them listen to the tapes.  Since then I have found almost all of these stories have been uploaded to Youtube (just search “Disney Story” or “Read-along-record”).  You can easily create an audio file off the youtube videos and have a ton of free short stories for your child to listen to.  Here is an example of one of them:

Now that the kids are used to audiobooks, they are able to listen to all sorts of other audiobooks that don’t have pictures for them to follow along with.  For instance, today they huddled together listening to the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe for about 30 minutes.

Huddled around listening to the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe
Huddled around listening to the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe

The Gist of It All

If your kids are driving you crazy but the idea of unplugging for a week or more totally terrifies you….you are probably ready for a major electronic detox.  More than anything else we have tried this alone seems to have the quickest results for behavioral improvement.  After our first electronic detox Hubby and I marveled at how much electronic media really felt like giving our kids an addictive substance.  We give them a shot of it and it temporarily pacifies them and gives us momentary peace but when it ends they (and we) have a horrible hangover that can most quickly be cured by more electronic media thus starting this viscous cycle.

Three days in and it is already getting easier.  We will probably continue with little electronic media over Christmas.  After the holidays I plan to reinstate the incentive system for the kids where they earn stars for doing their school work and then Saturday they get about an hour on the iPads.  It is a HUGE (and cheap $$$ for me) incentive for them plus I want them to learn to enjoy these things in moderation.  What do you think?  Is it better to have moderate electronic media usage or just stop it 100% forever?

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