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Last Child In The Woods

The Seven Stages of Screen-Free Time


My kids are addicted, plain and simple. 

As much as we try to limit screen time, there is just some siren song that electronics use to call to our children.  But life is best enjoyed outside the box, outside of the little flickering screens that suck us in.  And so, “screen-free time” is a thing in our house. 

But it doesn’t come without it’s challenges. 

The first thing we here is that “there’s nothing to do”, and then they progress through several stages until they finally reach a place of acceptance and actually enjoy themselves.  Here’s how it usually goes:

Stage One: Shock & Denial

“What?  You never told us we weren’t going to be able to watch TV!”

Stage Two: Anger

“My friends get to play video games ALL DAY!  You NEVER let us play ALL DAY!”

Stage Three: Arguing

“Screen time is good for us.  It teaches us hand/eye coordination, strategy skills and decision-making.” or “You said no screens, but you didn’t say anything about the computer.  It has a monitor, not a screen.”

Stage Four: Bargaining

“How about we play for just 15 more minutes?  THEN we’ll do whatever you want.  How about we do the recycling after we’re finished playing for 30 more minutes?”

Stage Five: Depression

The kids drape themselves on the couch, doing their best to look dejected and sad.


Stage Six: Acceptance

“We’ll never get to watch TV again … oh well.  I guess that’s what you get for having parents who “care”.  Let’s go find something to do …”

Stage Seven: Enjoyment

The kids disappear and I don’t hear from them again until their voices drift up from the basement or the bedrooms or the backyard.  Sometimes they end up sword fighting with those huge sticks they’ve collected in the backyard.  Sometimes they’re describing elaborate scenarios involving futuristic star ships, and sometimes they’re drawing those imaginings out.  Once in awhile one kid will get annoyed with another one and a squabble ensues, but that quickly dissipates and they continue in their game.  And then they end up quite enjoying their games until they get hungry or until it’s time to head to bed.

It’s easy to give in during one of the first six steps, but when I don’t, they end up having so much fun!  It’s not that common to find  a 15, 13, and 8 year old playing together, but when it happens, it’s a great thing!

What do the kids in your life enjoy doing the most?  Do they play together well?




Article written by:

Megan is a WAHM to 3 (and then some) kids, who spends the majority of her time working as an Administrative Assistant, blogging and washing dishes. She loves to write about her adventures in parenting, running a home daycare, adoption and whatever else strikes her fancy!


  1. Robin Rue (@massholemommy)

    I need to read this to my kids. They HATE when I tell them that time’s up with their electronics.

  2. Jeanette

    Sad to say that I think that we can all say this about our kids now. It is hard to not give in especially when you are tired, but after all those steps my kiddo usually finds something.
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  3. Stacie @ Divine Lifestyle

    This is hilarious. It’s so true, too! You would think I was sending my kids to the gallows when I tell them time’s up.
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  4. lisa

    This sounds just like my kids. It seems that if I promise to do anything with them, they will forgo screen time. They would much rather play board games with mom and dad than watch tv!
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  5. Sicorra@NotNowMomsBusy

    This is difficult, because on the one hand you want your children to learn how to use a computer because they will now need those skills for the rest of their lives.

    On the other hand you want to teach them balance. Yes being good on a computer is important but we all still need exercise and time to socialize with real people, face to face.

    Better to learn that while they are young so that it just becomes second nature to them.
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  6. Chubskulit Rose

    My kids are not allowed to have their iPods on the weekdays, only on weekends. THey are however allowed to watch TV after all the homework has been done. Love the photos!
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  7. mary

    I love this post. So true in our home. When we take away phones at dinner, it’s like the end of the world. Ha!

  8. Miles L.

    Screen-free time sounds like a good idea. Parents should help kids become more well-rounded people. I would also apply this.

  9. OurFamilyWorld

    Screen time is also an issue with the twins. The kids can think of so many excuses!
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  10. Terri Beavers

    Thank you for the stages. I have a tuff time getting one of my grand kids to put down his devices. The others don’t mind and are easily persuaded to do something else instead.
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  11. Travel Blogger

    Ha ha this is great! My son is only 17 months, but I have to admit I let him watch tv when I need to get stuff done, and when I turn it off he often goes through these stages.

  12. Paula Schuck

    My kids love to get outside and play. We have a two hour window in the evening when we do not allow any devices to be on. At first the kids resisted but now they love it.
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  13. ricci

    This post both cracks me up and makes me sad. I would be lost without my iPhone in my hands at all times. I really need to take a screen break!

  14. Kathy

    I completely relate to this! My youngest always wants to watch T.V. I’m very lucky that my oldest doesn’t watch T.V. a whole lot. I have to limit the T.V. time as well. All I do is shut it off and she’ll find something to do. She may hate it at first, but then she’s alright once she finds something to play with.

  15. Tracy @ Ascending Butterfly

    I don’t have children but as a former Special Ed Teacher I definitely did see how addicted kids were to portable devices. It’s important to have them play outside and develop a very different set of skills than those they get from managing devices.
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  16. Kelli @ 3 Boys and a Dog

    In our home, electronics/screen time is a privilege and is earned. Its makes me sad to see a park/playground full of children, sitting with their nose buried in a phone, etc. Go out & play!
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  17. HilLesha

    My son enjoys it every once in awhile, because he’s mostly like me when it comes to enjoying other things more (I rarely watch TV). We both like to go hiking, going on road trips, doing crafts, and dabbling in photography. There’s definitely life outside the screen. 🙂
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  18. Ashleigh

    LOL this was great! It’s so true though, luckily my kids love getting out and enjoying nature with the family.

  19. Maggie Branch

    This is great! My dad would do this with my brother and me when we were younger and our go to game was spies. The creepy guy with the tiny dog next door was always up to something and we had to save the US from his evil. I love those memories.

  20. April Mims

    Limiting screen time and enjoying life and each other is such a great idea. We should all do more of it!
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  21. Bonnie @wemake7

    This is a great post and so true. We are about to do this with their electronics as well. I know there will be kicking and screaming but in the end we will have some enjoyable off screen time.

  22. R U S S

    I don’t have children and I’m not married but I can relate to this because I have a cousin who lives with us and he is just soooo hooked. He gets furious when we tell him to stop, etc. He could go on all day without eating. Lol.

    What’s important here is as grown-ups, we should be firm even if they try to give us those cute faces or the “But my friends …. ” card. Too much of anything is not good.

  23. Bites for Babies

    My husband and I made a point to turn off the TV and avoid the ipad as much as possible! My kids are 3 and 4 1/2 and I think they use the ipad for a total of one hour a week. As for screen time, (unfortunately) they git quite a bit at their grandparent’s house! lol!
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  24. Marielle Altenor

    LOL Sounds like my son! We actually had to cut his gaming for the next 2 months because it was starting to affect him at school. Now he only watches a little bit of tv after supper.
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