Could a screen-free week be a good idea for your kids?
There’s no doubt your kids have access to more screens and information than you did when you were a kid.
In fact, kids born between 1995 to the mid 2010s are commonly called the iGeneration, referring to the fact that these kids were born with iPhones, iPads, and iPods practically placed in their hands!
While technology is amazing for making mom life easier and more convenient, it can also be a very healthy idea to have a screen-free week, also called a screen fast, from time to time!
What is a screen fast?
A screen fast is simply taking a break from screens in your home for a certain amount of time.
According to The Conversation, just like a typical fast means abstaining from food, a screen fast means that your kids abstain from electronic devices, such as smartphones, tablets, computers, and more.
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How to start a screen fast
Before you begin your screen fast, it’s a good idea to make a few decisions in advance. You can decide some of these on your own, with your partner, or involve your kids the discussion too!
Here are some important questions to consider:
- When will our screen fast begin?
- How long will the screen fast last?
- What devices are included in your screen fast?
- Are there any possible exceptions to the screen fast?
- What are some ideas of things we could do instead?
- Will we repeat our screen fast on a regular basis?
- Why do we want or need to have a screen fast?
Just so we don’t leave you high and dry, keep reading to get our input and experience with the questions listed above!
When will our screen fast begin?
Before you choose a date for the screen fast to start, be sure to take a look at your calendar.
If you have any long trips in the car and your kids are used to watching movies or playing games during road trips, this probably isn’t an ideal time to try a screen fast!
Also, if one of your kids has a birthday coming up and his deepest wish is for the new Super Mario Brothers video game, which is sitting in the top of your closet, a screen-free week definitely wouldn’t be ideal!
How long will the screen fast last?
The length of your screen fast is totally up to you!
We’ve had a lot of success with a screen-free week. (In our experience, this gives the kids enough time to actually get bored and learn how to come up with things to do on their own!)
Others have mentioned taking an entire month away from screens.
If you want to start small, even a screen-free weekend would be a good introduction!
What devices are included in your screen fast?
Of course, you could take a hard line and say that all screens are off-limits.
Or you could include only hand-held devices in your screen-free week, such as smartphones and tablets, especially if your kids are older and need to use a computer for schoolwork.
Are there any possible exceptions to the screen fast?
Some possible exceptions to your screen-free week could be:
- a scheduled family movie night
- an invitation to go to the movies with friends
- a scheduled interview or Zoom meeting
It’s also a good idea to think about what things could come up that may impact the success of your screen-free week.
For example, if one of your kids get sick and wants to recuperate with a blanket and her favorite movies for a day, this could be a good reason to pause your screen fast and resume it again when you can.
What are some things we could do during our screen-free week?
We’re so glad you asked! You’ll definitely want to check out our article 101 Awesome Screen-Free Summer Activities for Kids right here.
Here are our top 25 ideas for an amazing screen-free week:
- Bake a treat
- Write a letter to grandparents
- Play a board game (check out our favorite cooperative family board games here!)
- Build a blanket fort
- Dress up/ fashion show
- Play with dolls
- Play with LEGOs
- Read a favorite book aloud
- Play minute to win it games
- Have a dance party (an inexpensive disco ball like this will take your dance party to the next level!)
- Host a home escape room
- Do a puzzle
- Start a journal
- Make friendship bracelets
- Do crosswords or soduku
- Learn sign language
- Write a letter to grandparents or friends
- Have an indoor campout – pull the tent and sleeping bags into the living room
- Paper airplane contest
- Make a collage
- Write in code
- Ask Would You Rather questions (check out our list of 301 Would You Rather Questions for Kids right here!)
- Play charades
- Kid meditation
- Have a backward day – start the day with dinner, end with breakfast, and wear your clothes backward all day!
Will we repeat our screen-free week on a regular basis?
You may consider starting a screen-free week on a recurring basis – maybe once a month or once a quarter.
This can help your kids see that your screen-free isn’t a punishment. Instead, it’s something you want to do to help them grow mentally and emotionally.
Why do we want or need to have a screen fast?
Discussing WHY you feel a need to have a screen fast is SO important to talk about with your kids!
You want to be sure that they know your screen-free week is not a punishment. As you talk to your kids about a screen fast, it’s a great idea to:
- Focus on the benefits of having a screen fast
- Share why you want to do do this for your kids
- Talk about what you hope they’ll gain from it
Keep reading to find out more about the benefits of having a screen-free week!
Why is a screen-free week important?
Having screen-free time is incredibly important for our kids – mentally, physically, and emotionally!
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization, make the following recommendations for acceptable screen time use:
- under 18 months: no screen time except for video chatting with family members
- 18-24 months: little to no screen time
- preschool (ages 3-5): 1 hour per day
- elementary (ages 6-10): 1.5 hours per day
- middle school (ages 11-13): 2 hours per day
- teenagers (ages 14+): 2 hours per day
On the flip side, According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, kids ages 8-12 in the United States spend 4-6 hours a day watching or using screens. This includes all types of screens: smartphones, tablets, gaming consoles, TVs, and computers.
Here’s a look at the disparity in how much screen time our kids are getting versus the recommended amount of screen time they should have:
This is alarming because studies show that too much screen time can have a negative effect on our kids, potentially causing things like:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Lower grades in school
- Reading fewer books
- Decreased face to face interaction
- Not enough physical activity
- Childhood obesity
- Increased moodiness
- Less time spent outdoors
- Poor self-image
- Comparison issues
- Desensitization towards violence
Introducing a screen-free week can be hugely helpful in making the initial break from screens that your kids really need!
What to do at the end of your screen-free week
At the end of your screen-free week, take some time to talk with your kids about their experience.
You may consider asking them some of these questions:
- How did having a screen-free week affect you? Our family?
- What device did you miss the most during the week and why?
- Which day of our screen-free week was the hardest for you?
- What did you learn about yourself during our screen-free week?
- Why do you think having a screen-free week from time to time is important?
- What was the best thing about having a screen-free week?
As you listen to their responses, you may gain some great insights for your next screen-free week in the future!
Final thoughts on our family’s screen-free week
It may not be easy to get your family to agree to a screen-free week at first – it certainly wasn’t in ours!
But we knew it was needed because our kids were getting really angry every time they played video games and were arguing each time the TV was turned on.
We started out really strong, and it was as if our kids were rediscovering the toys in their rooms again. By day four though, the kids were getting bored. That’s when we pulled out our list of 101 screen-free activities and let them choose a few. And we were able to finish out the week without any issues!
Once your kids make it through their first screen-free week, they’ll not only be able to see that they can make it through a week without screens, but they might even admit that having a regular screen fast is something they’re actually willing to do!
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