Screen-Free Week! May 5-11! by Deborah van der Linde
What is Screen-Free Week, you ask? According to their website, it’s an “international celebration where children, families, schools, and communities spend seven days turning OFF entertainment screen media and turning ON life!” Go with no screen time for a week, you say? With two kids, this seems daunting. While we don’t sit it in front of the TV all day, we do use the iPad for everything from ebooks for both the kids and me, reading games, jigsaw puzzles, and more.
The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, who organize this event, say that Screen-Free week is more than just trying to go without using a screen for a week. Instead, “it’s to encourage people to try living without screens for a week so that they’ll reconsider the place of electronic entertainment media in their lives and make long- term changes for a healthier, more satisfying life.” In a nutshell, they are attempting to help families build healthier media habits in their lives. Their motivation is the myriad of research that connects screen time to issues like childhood obesity, poor academics, the impact on reading and literacy, and the affect it has on mental health.
Obviously, Screen-Free Week has sparked much discussion amongst the members of the LittleLit Think Tank. Namely, is there a better way to go about this that is more supportive, and encourages a more active role in doing so for the family? One member, Chip Donahue, suggested that shifting the focus from screen-free to screen awareness would be a better approach. He says, “If we want young children and families to be digitally literate, turning off all screens doesn’t make much sense to me. But, putting a positive focus on being more aware of what children (and adults) are doing on screens, as well as how much time they spend with screen media, seems like a great opportunity to put the focus on a healthy media diet and provide resources for parents and families about a family media use plan in the home that takes into account all of the screen exposure children have across all settings during their waking hours.”
An interesting alternative to Screen-Free Week was developed in Canada: Unplug and Play week, by Participaction. The emphasis is the positive message of getting outside and playing for an hour a day, and the healthy benefits in doing so, instead of the negativity of screen time.
Not only does Deborah van der Linde love to read, but she loves to get everyone around her reading, too. She works on-call at her local public library, is working on a masters of education in children’s literature, and is the mother of two small children who love it when she reads to them. She can be reached at email@example.com.