Do you remember the moment you realized there was too much screen time in your family? Do you recall when it first occurred to you that a digital device seemed to be permanently attached to your child’s hand, or that your spouse’s eyes were perpetually glued to a screen? You felt disconnected, concerned, maybe even jealous. And what about the emotions unleashed when you mentioned reducing screen time so your family could connect more?
I remember those moments well.
But I didn’t enter the Screen War as a fully-equipped warrior. I didn’t become a digital wellness activist overnight. My awakening from the “Matrix” resulted from significant losses, gut wrenching introspection, and an informal but deadly serious study of the effects screens not only have on our kids' minds, bodies, relationships, but also on their futures.
Now that I’m a veteran in the Screen War, I want to help you fight for your family, too. I’m not retired, by the way. Although I’ve been on the frontlines for some time, I’ve still got a child and teen at home and, while we win some battles, the war still rages on.
This report from the frontlines is part of my story, and part of your boot camp if you want to join the fight.
When I was in my early teens, my family immigrated to America. We came to work hard and dreamed of doing important things. I didn’t understand the heavy cultural focus on leisure, especially entertainment, as a primary goal. Of course, I liked to have fun, and I often enjoyed hanging out with my youth group friends. But to me, entertainment was supposed to be an occasional treat, not the focus of life, much less an addiction. For me, life was about more than TV, movies, amusement parks and such. I wanted answers as to why I existed, what my purpose was, and what I could contribute to the world around me.
Even with that mindset, I may have eventually become a screen addict too, if not for three “screen shocks” that I faced as an adult. Three important men in my life fought their own screen wars, and I suffered from the collateral damage their battles caused.
The first man was my one-year-younger brother. In the 80’s, he spent countless hours in arcades playing games like Pacman. This seemingly harmless obsession and the lifestyle it produced indirectly led to his tragic death at twenty-five-years-old.
The second man is my husband. Shortly after we were married in the early 90’s, his empire building video game screen addiction turned me into what I called “a computer widow.” The second through sixth years of our marriage were a very lonely time for me. As a result, we had our children much later than most people in our circles.
The third man is my son, He was four-years-old before he watched TV ,and even then it was limited in time and content (Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, anyone?). Then we relaxed our technology rules, and, almost overnight, our son’s fascination with Legos, books, and soccer was replaced with online games and comedy videos. School work and his creative projects became drudgery. The more screen time he got, the grumpier he was when it was time to get off.
My brother, my husband, and my son were three casualties too many for me. Plus, by this time, my young daughter was now growing up in this minefield. Even I wasn’t immune to the attraction of little blue screens, mostly social media, which not only made me feel angry and guilty, but also compassionate.
I finally reached the tipping point and, now, my sporadic raids and battles have ignited into a full-blown Screen War.
Like me, you are a warrior in the Screen War, and I am on a mission to help you.
My Screen War is not against technology in and of itself. It is against addiction, because that is what leaves us disconnected from our loved ones and depressed. I’m not fighting the screen addicts in my life—I want to make them my allies so we can connect and experience abundant lives. Unplugged from our Matrix-like devices, we can imagine and live real-life adventures!
I look forward to learning your story, and helping equip you in your family’s journey to digital wellness. The solutions are simple but not easy. It is never too late to start rebuilding your family’s connection to one another.
What does your screen war look like? Are you winning the daily battles? Join our Unplugged Family Group to find comrades fighting the same battle.