Confession: our TV is on almost daily. It’s not on all day, and we’re super selective about what gets watched. We do Netflix and Hulu instead of traditional television, so we’re not inundated with ridiculous ads, and it’s never on just as background noise (music is almost always on when the TV isn’t). We’re big believers in not watching much TV.
But still… there it is. Our TV is on at least for a few minutes, six days per week.
The other day? It’s off—no iffs, ands or buts. The kids know this in advance, we grownups write it on the calendar, and so even though the youngest still asks, “Can I watch a cartoon?” out of habit, the rest of the family knows this TV-free day is written in our weekly calendar.
Games on the smartphones are off-limits, too.
As are the ones on the Internet.
And screens anywhere else, for that matter.
We’ve been calling this new ritual our Screen Sabbath. Even though our lives don’t revolve around screens, if we’re not careful, all five of us can stare at them more than we realize. I’m not crazy about that.
So we instituted our Screen Sabbath as a way to curtail any potential obsession, crutch, or knee-jerk reaction to a few hours’ downtime. As a way to silence the noise in our everyday lives. To remember the effort it takes to have meaningful, worthwhile entertainment that doesn’t involve other people acting on our behalf.
It’s not just hard for the kids and their cartoon-watching ways. This means aside from the occasional text or quick glance for directions, Kyle and I don’t use our smartphones, either. Easier said than done, believe me.
On most Screen Sabbaths, we spend the afternoon outdoors. We’ll grab a quick lunch after church (oh—and the fact that we call our screen break a “sabbath” is not because it’s on a Sunday—we’d still call it that if it were a Tuesday), then head to the sledding hill in the winter, a lake in the summer, or even go for a simple walk or ambling drive year-round. Sometimes it’s a simple afternoon at a local park. Many times, it’s wandering in the backyard or even just reading, playing, and crafting in the quiet house.
Instituting this Screen Sabbath really isn’t much—I mean, we’re only talking about 24 hours per week. But for me, it’s become a centering, where I better hear my thoughts, my husband’s words, my children’s laughter, and my convictions that life isn’t all about my entertainment. I am grateful for the background quiet and the voices loud. I better remember what it means to slow down.
This is just as true as when it was first published in March 2013.