Enjoying Screen-Free Week

Did you know that every year since 1994 there has been a week dedicated to turning off the TV? Originally called TV-Turnoff, Screen-Free Week is a chance for both kids and adults to power down from our dependence on screen-based entertainment and find joy in other things—cooking together, books, nature, music, hobbies, playing games, cultural attractions, exercise, each other!

Freeimages.com/ Oliver Gruener
Freeimages.com/ Oliver Gruener

“Screen time” is sedentary time spent in front of a TV, computer screen, smartphone screen, tablet or playing video games. Increased screen time is associated with increased obesity risk. According to the National Institute of Health, the average child spends 3 hours a day watching TV and a total of 5-7 hours per day in front of all types of screens combined. Yikes! (For many adults, I’d bet it’s even more, given that may of us spend our workdays in front of screens.) NIH’s screen time guidelines call for no screen time for children under age 2, and 1-2 hours per day for children over age 2. That’s it. Weaning a child off of screens can be a challenge; the NIH offers some practical suggestions for making the 2-hour limit a reality at your house.

Screen-Free Week is May 2-8, and is presented by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. Many communities sponsor special activities or programs aimed at getting children outside to enjoy local opportunities for recreation. If your community doesn’t have something planned, you can register your Screen-Free Week activities with the website. You can also get inspiration there by seeing what other communities are doing for Screen-Free Week, and get an organizer’s kit. (Yes, I do see the irony of using a computer (and its screen) to get information about Screen-Free Week, but work and schoolwork are exempted from the screen-free “pledge,” and this is important “work”!)

Although Screen-Free Week is centered on prying children and teens away from screens, there’s no reason why adults can’t take part as well. In fact, if you’re a parent and your kids are going screen-free, chances are you’ll have to participate right along with them in order to really support their efforts. Plus, going screen-free is much more fun when you have someone with whom to share all that screen-free fun! Check out some of our ideas for things your family can do instead of watching TV, playing video games or watching other peoples’ lives scroll by on Facebook or Instagram.