Screen Free Week Follow Up: Guess Who Had the Hardest Time Tuning Out?

Weeks ago, my family participated in Screen Free Week (formerly known as TV Turn-Off Week) and attempted to unplug from the technology/screens as much as possible.

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, sponsors Screen Free week and suggests people look to other sources for entertainment rather than relying on screens. They encourage children to play, read, daydream, explore nature, and spend more time with family and friends instead.

It sounded like a good challenge for us. We had gotten in the habit of disappearing into our screens too much lately.

Before we began, we made allowances for “necessary” tech time such as work, homework, and critical emails. Texting was supposed to be very limited. We would try to concentrate on being screen free for our entertainment and other downtime.

How hard could this be? People give up things for Lent. Dieters give up favorite foods. It is only one week. (Actually it was only 5 days- the reason for such little resistance to participate turned out to be the children negotiated a shortened week with their father-unbeknownst to me)

My daughter said her friends “felt sorry for her and that they could never do that.” My boys were too mortified to tell anyone they were following this little experiment.

I quickly learned that it was me who was having the most difficult time of staying screen free. My phone is almost always with me. I use it to get the weather, take pictures, play music, log workouts, get directions, check grades, and organize my calendar….all in addition to texting and emailing. When you come to depend on one device to serve all those functions, how can you limit your screen time?

As I wrote in my last post on this subject, I used to encourage my third grade students to participate in TV Turn-Off Week years ago and had thought that would be a difficult challenge. Turning off the television was a piece of cake compared to what is in existence today.

So How Did We Do?
Luckily, we had some tolerable Chicago weather on our side and the beginning of the week was easy. There was plenty to do outside- walks, basketball, bike rides, yard work. I even tried to get my children to learn some tennis. I must have walked about 10 miles that week!

My daughter having homework and afterschool activities kept very busy and made it all the way to Friday before she jumped on the computer to play Mindcraft while visiting a friend.

One son made the most of his “social life” and played more sports outdoors in addition to his daily track practice and meets. He managed to stay off the computer most of the time but admitted to texting friends during the week.

Our “gamer” child was more social, helpful, and interactive with the whole family. He made dinner one night and helped with yard work. I so enjoyed talking with him and spending more time with him throughout the week. He admitted to watching a few YouTube videos.

My husband missed our nightly watching of the Daily Show. We all had our weaknesses.

During the day, I needed my television as background noise. I noticed I was conditioned at certain times to turn it on and I hadn’t even realized it. Now the house was quiet.

I wanted to read articles and news on the computer. I thought I might be missing something important if I didn’t check Facebook. I needed to use the convenience of shopping on-line. It was definitely difficult to limit what had become routine.

On the other hand…

  • I noticed my productivity was up. I got things done that normally I would put off.
  • I was less sedentary and more active when not distracted by a screen.
  • For once, there really was more time in the day. It was time that I hadn’t frittered or surfed away.
  • Instead of typing LOL- laugh out loud- on-line, I actually did laugh with a good friend over lunch.
  • The day was less noisy. More quiet time felt peaceful and less harried.
  • There was more space for real conversations to take place- to actually “be in the moment.”

What is the Take-Away?
Obviously I knew the necessity of technology before this little trial. I have a clearer understanding of how integrated technology is into our lives now that I have stopped and considered it more closely.

As a parent, something to keep in mind is the children’s perspective- they know no other way. Technology use is natural to them. They are much more savvy than I will ever be. They are still children, so they do need guidance and limits from parents.

Educators need to consider and adjust for the way this generation uses, learns, and communicates with technology. Teachers can bring virtual field trips to the classroom, use YouTube videos and music to bring a concept to life, and search instantaneously for information. Children will connect with information presented that way. Students will need a balance of technology and human interaction with their teachers because learning is so social in nature.

I will continue to embrace technology for many things, but I will definitely be aware of how much time I spend with it for entertainment. Like any other habit, it is something you do without thinking. I know to be more thoughtful in its use so in our family, we don’t end up tuning each other out.

If you liked this you may also like to read my previous post on "unplugging."

Coming in June, tips for keeping up skills over the summer. Be sure to subscribe now.

Have you ever tried going screen free?  Please comment, tweet, share, “like” on Facebook! Likes  and tweets are much appreciated. Contact me at

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  • Very interesting. Might try a modified version.

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