“Screen-Free Week” is upon us. From Monday, May 1st through Sunday, May 7th, the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood is encouraging families worldwide to unplug from screens in order to connect with each other.
Personally, I think it’s a fantastic idea to reduce the time kids and teens spend in front of screens. I’m not debating that. I have to be honest though, most parents find the idea of unplugging for a full week overwhelming or even terrifying! And that’s okay.
Why? Because our culture involves a lot of screen time and kids are not left out of this trend. Screens are used for entertainment, education, social interaction, creative endeavors, and childcare—as in, please watch this episode or play this game for 15-minutes so I can go to the bathroom, possibly shower, and potentially have a few seconds of quiet.
When screens are such an integral part of your child’s daily life, how could you not be a little panicked at the idea of tossing them altogether, right? Right!
So, here are five ways to ease your child into Screen-Free Week while maintaining your sanity:
Remember that screen time for work or school is okay.
Let’s get real. If your child has academic assignments that require a screen or if you are required to access screens for your livelihood, it’s not practical to unplug and let those responsibilities fall to the wayside.
Thankfully, this gray area is acknowledged even during Screen-Free Week so you don’t have to stress about it. Just be mindful of how easy it is for you and your child to find your way to social media or start window-shopping online while taking a break from your “work.”
You can try to offer fun screen-free alternatives, but at some point you’ll probably just have to say no to your child.
Campaign for a Commercial Free America provides tons of suggestions on how you can occupy your child or teen without screens. Some of them sound super fun. I would love to go to the zoo or bake cookies, and if and when that’s possible, those are great ideas.
You can try to make Screen-Free Week fun, but at some point you will have to set a limit and say no. Accepting this is an important part of building the courage to reduce screen time in your home. For more tips on setting limits without drama check out Chapter 4 of “Parenting in the Real World."
Maybe cold turkey isn’t for you and your family.
If this is the case, don’t abandon Screen-Free Week altogether. Try to shave off a third of the time your child or teen spends in front of their screens or devices. If your child is on Snapchat, challenge him or her to break a streak (an emoji driven designation given when two people have snapped each other for more than two days in a row).
If your child is using a screen during bedtime or before school, use this week to set a limit around access to screens at those times. These small steps are important and may wind up having a lasting impact so don’t downplay their power just because you’re not buying into Screen-Free Week hook-line-and-sinker.
Lead by example.
Even if you don’t have the energy to implement an entirely Screen-Free Week for your child and family, start with yourself. See if you are up for the challenge of detoxing from social media and screen-based entertainment for seven days. If you are, talk about your experience with your child and family.
You may be surprised at the outcome and the extra time you find on your hands. In the long run, this week-long exercise may provide the inspiration you need to gear up for a reduction in everyone’s screen-time in your household even after Screen-Free Week has officially passed.
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