What Really Happens When You Take Away Your Kids' Screen Time

Like most kids, mine are quite attached to their devices. At times, it’s almost like those tiny tablets are literally molded to their hands. So, it makes sense that when they’re acting up and I need to make a point, I go straight for those screens.

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I find this consequence works well—being disconnected is pure torture and they’ll do nearly anything to prevent it from happening again. Unfortunately, banning screen time is just as bad—if not worse—for parents than it is for kids.

Here are the nine stages of what really happens when you take away precious screen time. Consider the consequences (for everyone involved) before you instigate a ban of your own.

1. Anger

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You may think you’ve seen your little one mad before, but those hissy fits of the past were nothing compared to the beast you’ll unleash when you declare a screen-free day or two. Be prepared, because chances are, you won’t even recognize your precious child—and that can be downright terrifying.

2. Denial

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Surely, you didn’t mean it when you said no tablets for a week, right? A week is so long! You’ll start fielding questions like, “Mommy, did you really mean I lost my game for that long?” because obviously they heard wrong. Here’s where they’re crossing their fingers and hoping for a miracle.

3. Sadness

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OK, they finally get it at this point. They screwed up, and you meant business. If you thought the anger stage was bad, you haven’t lived through this one yet. All the tears. All the intentionally loud sobs. It’s a lot for even the strongest parent to handle. Crank up Spotify and close your eyes, it’ll be over soon.

4. Destruction

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Heed my warning now: The moment they realize those screens are really gone, it’ll trigger a destruction to your home like nothing you’ve seen since the TBT (I’m talking about the Time Before Tablets, ya’ll). All those toys collecting dust in the corners of their rooms will suddenly be remembered, and they’ll play with them. All. At. Once. You’ve probably forgotten what this is like, but it won’t take long for it to feel familiar.

5. Desperation

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Lance Neilson/Flickr

Don’t worry, that mess won’t last forever. They’ll get bored with those toys again real fast, and that’s when they start to get really desperate. Maybe they’re hoping you’ll have forgotten the punishment, or maybe they really think they’re that slick… but your kids are about to sneaky. Put those screens out of reach, or you’ll find them in closets and under beds with the volume turned down as low as possible.

6. Acceptance

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This is the best stage. Unfortunately, it’s also the shortest. For a very small window of time, your kids will be totally fine with the fact that they’ve lost their tech toys. They’ve realized there’s a world beyond the screens, and they like that world.

7. Zombiism

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Kayla Sawyer/Flickr

Some parents include TV time when they take away screen time. It doesn’t work like that in my house, mostly because I value my sanity too much. If you feel the same way, you know that taking away the tiny screens often means they suddenly remember the big one.

You know all those annoying TV shows you thought your kids outgrew years ago? Turns out, they just didn’t have time for them anymore. Now that their beloved devices aren’t filling their schedules, your TV will once again be taken over by annoying kid songs and cartoons. Start DVRing your shows now, because you’re going to have to wait until after the kids go to bed to watch them.

8. Boredom

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Kendra/Flickr

They are now completely out of things to do, and they fill their time with so much talking. It’s seems like forever that you’ve been wishing your kids would turn away from their screens and actually talk to you. Well, be careful what you wish for, because now that they’re spending every day bored out of their minds, you’re about to rediscover just how much your kids can talk. Hint: It’s a lot.

9. Bargaining

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J Horsefjord/Flickr

Finally, everything will come to a head and the bargaining stage will begin. Surprisingly, it’s not always the kids who will initiate this final phase in the screen ban—there’s a good chance it will be you. After days (or, lets’ face it, sometimes just hours) of screenless-induced chaos, you’ll be desperate for things to return to normal. In fact, you’ll be so ready for some peace, quiet and order, you’ll find yourself offering up early release for super simple tasks, like feeding the dog or feeble attempts at room cleaning.

If you were able to make it the full length of the promised screen ban, I applaud you. If you gave in and handed them back early, I totally understand. Either way, you’ve probably all learned a few valuable lessons. It wasn’t all bad, right? You spent some major quality time together, and they rediscovered life away from the screen. Still, it was a hard road for you both—and not for the last time, I’m sure.

Main image: charamelody/Flickr