7 DAYS UNPLUGGED by Shelley Rivelli

Day 1. No electronics. Why? you ask. I feel like I am losing the war on influencing my children more than their outside sources are influencing them. Most of the conversations in my home are focused on Xbox game strategies, YouTube videos, drama on social media, and inappropriate music lyrics. Sometimes, conversations are lectures to Chris and Ben about what they are filling their time and minds with, other conversations are actually me yelling at my children to shut the phones off or to take out their ear buds. We have traded meaningful devotional times with quick morning prayers in the car (competing with snap chat), and conversations about the best parts of our days are replaced with Netflix binges.

Conversations about God’s love, and Jesus’ example are replaced with arguments about Fortnite and explicit lyrics. Honestly, what are we doing? I truly believe that the root of the world’s problems is that we have forgotten our identity in Christ. Daily, my children are finding their identity in the crazy world of social media.  A change is needed.

I have learned that in order for a lesson to be meaningful it has to be experienced. I have talked until I was blue –actually red–in the face, and told my children that I felt defeated (because I do), and nothing is changing. Then I thought, what if we all took a break for 7 days? Did a reset? I was met with incredible resistance. I am not crazy (most days), so we started to negotiate a payoff for participating in the “electronics detox.” First round we agreed that $30 a week was fair. The night before the ban on media was to begin, my 14-year-old started backing out, so I raised the payoff to $50. Deal. Phones could be used to text and to make phone calls.

My hopes…

  • Time will be made available for all of the earlier mentioned things (i.e. meaningful conversations, prayer).
  • There will be “ah-ha” moments regarding the amount of time wasted on electronics.
  • Homework will become a priority and not an afterthought.
  • Meals could actually be eaten without the phones at the table.
  • A set amount of screen time could be agreed upon that was more appropriate than… all day long.
  • No electronics Sunday will become a thing.

As I write this, my sons are beating each other up in the kitchen. I am looking at this as a bonding moment. Ordinarily they would both be in their rooms with their faces in a screen, so I will take it.

ONE. WEEK. LATER. It is the last night without electronics and here is what I have discovered. Ready? Electronics are not the enemy. The issue is my lack of parenting. Ouch! Trust me it was painful to write. HELLO. I am the parent. When did I forget this? When did I lose my backbone? When did I become the pro at justifying all things? When did my “no” start to mean “do whatever you want”? When did I start negotiating with children and when did it require cash for my children to do what I put into place? 

Taking away electronics did not all of a sudden produce a family that prays together, studies God’s word together, and loves our neighbors more or better. Those things were not happening because I wasn’t making them a priority in my family’s life. Want to know a secret? I don’t make my children go to church every Sunday either. The problem is not screen time, screen time is the scapegoat. The problem is my lazy parenting. “Hello, my name is Shelley and I’m a lazy parent.” True story.

Do I need to set limits on the amount of screen time allowed? Sure, probably a good idea. Do I need to put my foot down about the music that my sons are listening to? Absolutely. Do I need to make sure Ben isn’t binge-watching Pretty Little Liars? You bet I do. But here is my “ah-ha” moment: I was allowing those things under the justification umbrella of “they are good boys, do well in school, they play sports, blah, blah blah…” We may have spoken (argued) about my feelings about their music, TV choices, etc., but I was soft and never truly put an end to it. There wasn’t any follow-through. My kids knew I was soft.

I also allowed their faces to be in their electronics because it was easier for me. Parenting is work. In the morning, instead of talking to the boys, I would enjoy the silence in the car. We would pray quickly, they would go back to their snapchats and I would enjoy the peace. What? We prayed, right? That was just one example. Before bed, instead of tucking them in, we would all go to our rooms and turn to our electronics before we went to sleep instead of kisses and wishes to have “sweet dreams.” So, if my children have issues, it’s not the electronics fault. It’s mine.

My intention was to interview Chris and Ben at the end of the week to see what they had to say about seven days without electronics. Instead, I am ready to make changes without their input. I’m the mom. From this point on there will be no electronic Sundays, no music that has explicit or degrading lyrics. There will be limited time on Xbox and the phone. No electronics in bed, and I will be more present in the moment. If I want to teach my children to know who they are in Jesus, then I need to teach them that and stop blaming outside influences for being louder than I am. There will always be outside influences. Knowing who they are in Christ will be the voice that matters, and hopefully the choices they make will be based on that voice. That truth.

This week, my guys have had friends over every day. As I write this they are both in the next room hanging with friends. In person. I am going to make tacos and we are going to sit around a table and talk. Time to listen to what the best part of their day was about. I am guessing I will talk about Jesus.

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