Embracing Screen-Free Week as a Family

May 1st, 2017 by Live Well Omaha Kids

Live Well Omaha Kids recommends kids engage in two hours or less of screen time a day. We encourage children to “unplug”, connect with their friends and family, and move during Screen-Free Week, May 1-7, 2017. Our guest blogger Ashley Carroll shares with us how her family practices being “screen-free” at home.

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ne cityScreen-Free Week is celebrated around the world every year to encourage children and families to unplug, get out and practice mindfulness. It’s an excellent opportunity to challenge everyone in the family to find alternatives to being in front of a screen for entertainment and to get to know one another better. Without the TV, computer, tablet or phone to distract everyone at dinner time, you can learn a lot about what is going on with your kids that they might not otherwise volunteer to share.

Screen-Free Weeks are usually scheduled during warm weather, so take advantage of the opportunity to be outside. Practice yoga outdoors. Have a picnic and stare up at the sky, discerning shapes in the clouds. Impart a skill or talent you have to your children. Do you know how to play one song on a guitar? Do you know how to change a tire? Climb a tree? Grow a garden? Knit a scarf? Do a one-handed cartwheel? Share these talents with your kids!

Screen-Free at School

In my child’s school, the PTO distributes pledges to all students the week before Screen-Free Week. Students not only pledge to remain screen-free for one week (aside from necessary school work related screen time), they are also asked to list three alternate activities they will do instead of sitting passively in front of a screen. The PTO makes participation even easier by organizing after-school activities a few nights during Screen-Free Week, so parents and children do not stress about de-stressing. A roller skating party, a fun run and bike rodeo are all planned. New this year, the PTO is asking students to track their progress on activity cards for a chance to win prizes throughout the week. At the conclusion of the week, all students who remained screen-free will receive a certificate of achievement.

Screen-Free at Home

In my own home, the whole family gets involved in Screen-Free Week. The first step is framing the issue in a positive way. Instead of telling kids they don’t get their DS, iPad or PlayStation for a week, challenge them to see how long they can forgo the use of idle technology, making it more of a game. In the same vein, parents: I challenge you to leave your cell phone in another room or another floor of your home, out of sight and sound. It’s remarkable when you become conscious of all the involuntary times you check your email, Facebook or text someone- those minutes really add up!

Meal time is screen-free year-round in the Carroll household, so this is not a big adjustment, but the kids are more eager to help out when they do not have video games to play or TV to watch (bonus for mom!). I involve my kids in meal prep in various ways based on their abilities. Most kids can do simple things like measuring, tearing up lettuce for salad, pouring milk into glasses, etc. I also ask one child to set the table and another one to clear it. Once we all sit down to eat, we go around the table and ask each person how their day was, what their favorite part of the day was, one new thing they learned and what they are excited about for tomorrow. These conversations quickly erupt in unanimous laughter; the kind of joyful noise I like my house to be filled with.

After the table has been cleared and dishes are washed, we head out for an after-dinner walk. This is my favorite part of the day because I always return from a walk less stressed, more relaxed and thankful for things I had not bothered to notice throughout out my busy day like: new flowers blooming, a refreshing breeze blowing by, the silly giggles of my two and five year- old telling knock-knock jokes, and the gentle strength in my husband’s hand as he holds mine.

Screen-Free Week enables us to center ourselves and reorient our chaotic lives to the present. Screens definitely have a place in our lives; indeed, most of us could not learn or work without them. However, technology has become so pervasive, and we often instinctually reach for our devices as a distraction, costing each of us precious time with our loved ones and doing real damage to our bodies. Our children are even more prone to these technological impulses because they do not know a time without daily technology use. Screen-Free Week teaches us to be intentional in our use of technology and to embrace the simple pleasures in life that are not delivered through a high-speed wireless connection.

Here are some other ideas to try with your family during Screen-Free Week:

  • Shoot some hoops in the driveway
  • Climb a tree
  • Take a family bike ride (find your next adventure on one of many Nebraska trails)
  • Have a picnic
  • Build a tree house
  • Start a garden
  • Create cement stones with everyone’s hand or footprints
  • Dance to your favorite music and let each person take turns as DJ
  • Start a family journal

For more ideas and information about Screen-Free Week, visit www.screenfree.org.


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