April 29 – May 5 is Screen-Free Week, a chance for families to temporarily unplug from screens and find non-tech ways to have fun. Surprisingly, Screen-Free Week actually began 25 years ago. It was called “TV TurnOff Week”, during an era when the internet was in its infancy and parents were only concerned about TV rotting their children’s brains.
Now that everyone has a smartphone at hand, Screen-Free Week is arguably increasingly important every year. A Harvard Medical School article from last year highlighted consequences from excessive digital media consumption. Research like this underscores how Screen-Free Week serves parents in addition to children. Many adults benefit from a tech break as they’re glued to phones to the point of missing their children’s daily moments and magic.
Going screen free for an entire week may sound challenging, considering how pervasive technology is in our lives. And while work- and school-based screen time is necessary, it’s entirely possible to avoid entertainment media for at least a week or more. The trick is to have enough non-tech activities and ideas to keep everyone engaged.
If your family needs a little push into going screen-free temporarily, consider parental control devices like the Hub by Securly that actually turn off internet access to remove any temptations of checking texts or social media updates. Check out our thought starters, but dive into the resources listed below to surface the best-fitting idea for your crew!
Reading With Your Child
Take a moment to reinvent or create a comforting reading space in your home. Pile up cushions in a corner or snuggle in bed under a blanket fort and choose a handful of fun, engaging books. If your kiddos are old enough to read to you on their own, carve out time for them to recap the tales told! Keep them engaged and ask questions about the book; encourage them to share their take on what captivated them, or story elements they’d change. Make time for “pillow talk” with your young readers!
Need more book ideas? Check out SmartFeed’s playlists. SmartFeed offers parent reviews of books, movies, games, apps, and TV shows. Parents can also create playlists grouped by genres (e.g. “Best of Netflix” or “6-Year-Old Boy”). Another great reading round-up resource is the Children’s Choices Reading List.
Go Outside and Play
Screen-Free Week takes place in the spring, so it’s the perfect opportunity to reap the benefits of playing outside. Since grown-ups also need a break from tech, don’t sit on a bench fiddling with your phone while your kids run around. Play catch with them in the backyard. Ride your bikes around the neighborhood. Build a sandcastle together on the beach.
Of course, you can spend time with your kids indoors as well. Play board games, bake cookies, put on a puppet show, or even conduct simple science experiments.
Write in a Journal
Children have big, complex emotions they struggle to process. A tough day at school, a fight with a friend, homework concerns–these situations can be overwhelming. There are several benefits of journaling for kids, one being that it helps them sort through feelings and options. Journals are also developmentally advantageous in that they stimulate creativity, improve writing skills and reading comprehension. Children too young to write can still use a journal but draw their thoughts and feelings instead.
Consider Local Volunteer Work
Parents want to raise children to be compassionate, caring, and helpful. Volunteer work cultivates these traits. But, what to do? Teens can work in a soup kitchen, or deliver food to housebound people. Young children can visit lonely seniors at nursing homes, or sort through their old toys/clothes and donate them to a homeless shelter. Visit the Reward Volunteers website for more ideas.
If volunteering at an organization is too big of a first step, kids can start by looking around their neighborhood. Offer to mow the lawn for an elderly neighbor, walk someone’s dog for free, or deliver a home-cooked meal to frazzled parents of a newborn.
Talking with Your Children
This may not sound very exciting, but take time to chat with your kids about anything on their minds. Have a real, back-and-forth conversation–avoid interrogating them. You can talk about important, and not-so-important things. You may be surprised at what you learn! If you need some conversation starters check out the Family Dinner Project website.
Although Screen-Free Week is officially for one week, it can be the start of a new family routine. For example, consider having screen-free weekends once or twice a month. Involve your kids in coming up with fun, non-digital activities.
Hub by Securly is a very powerful digital parenting solution that allows you to take a break from tech and spend some quality family time. You can manage all digital devices in your home, even yours. Block distracting websites and categories and stick to school- and work-related ones. Temporarily turn off the internet on all your devices (yes, yours too!) and spend some quality family time.
Learn More: Hub by Securly
List of resources from the article:
- Screen-Free Week
- SmartFeed Playlists
- Children’s Choices Reading List (from the International Literacy Association)
- 37 Cool Science Experiments to do at Home
- Volunteer Opportunities for Kids (from Reward Volunteers)
- Conversation Starters (from Family Dinner Project)