This Is What Happened When We Started Having Cell Phone Free Sundays

Yesterday my youngest son spent hours building a fort. He and my eldest played nerf guns while I cooked dinner. After that, we gathered around the television and binge watched The Voice. Before bed, we had long, meaningful conversations. That night, all the kids camped out on the floor in my room. As they dragged in their sleeping bags and propped up their pillows, I felt like we had connected on a deeper level than we had in a really long time.

This is what I was hoping for when I got on my soapbox and announced they would now be spending Sundays sans cell phones because telling them to give their phones a rest on the weekend wasn’t cutting it.

What happens when teens give up their cell phones

I was surprised to see just how much time they would spend together. I figured they would busy themselves (separately) in their rooms for the most part. Maybe put in a movie or ask to have a friend over to pass the time, but none of that happened. To my surprise, they interacted with each other in a way they haven’t since, well, since I bought them all a cell phone.

When I preach to them that their phones have sucked some of the life out of them making them numb to things and activities they used to love, they barely hear me. I figured the only way for them to see how true this was would be for me to physically take the phone away.

Now, we’ve been doing cell phone free Sundays for a few weeks. And I’m sure you can guess it wasn’t very popular at first. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I wasn’t all in with the whole idea because I didn’t want to hear the complaining.

Yes, my children kind of hated me at first, but it was short-lived and didn’t take long for them to see something: one bonding activity leads to another when you aren’t a servant to the damn phone. I did learn it has to be out of sight and earshot though. Otherwise, it’s too tempting for them to sneak a peek. Honestly, I can barely handle that kind of temptation myself, how can I expect them to?

I find my underwear drawer is the perfect hiding spot for cell phone free days. No teen wants to delve into their mother’s unmentionables, even if their phone is blowing up.  Just stash your kid’s phones there and after all the complaining is done and they know you aren’t going to change your mind, they get used to the idea and actually make the best of it.

You may find you are left standing in the corner with tears in your eyes because your sons are running around the house shooting each other with foam darts thinking, It has been so long, I missed this.

Of course, my kids won’t admit how much cell phone free Sundays have enriched their life and still call it “The dumbest idea ever,” but I can tell by the way they laugh and talk to each other it was exactly what they needed. If they had their phone in front of them, they wouldn’t be talking; they wouldn’t be bonding; they wouldn’t be making memories.

The more time we are spending together as a family like we used to before my kids grew up and got phones, the more we want to do it and the less important the device becomes– even to my teenagers.

I saw how fast their phone time spiraled out of control once I bought them the new devices and frankly  it scared me. There were times I felt like I was the only mom who made my kids put it down by 9pm, and didn’t allow them to bust it out if we were at the movies. I was taking their phones away from them as punishment (something I will always do if I see fit), but it felt like these damn phones were holding too much power in our house.

This once a week ritual has resulted in them spending less time on their phone throughout the week, and I have not even had to ask them to put them down.  I wanted to see my kids go a whole day without it in hopes it would make them remember what it felt like to be a kid. Everyone is winning here.

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About Katie BinghamSmith

Katie Bingham-Smith lives in Maine with her three kids. She is a Staff Writer at Scary Mommy, shoe addict and pays her kids to rub her feet. You can see more of her on Facebook and Instagram .

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