Answer truthfully: when at home with the kids all day, what is the family most likely to do to pass the time? If it’s to watch TV or use your phones and tablets, Screen-Free Week may be just the thing to get the kids and you (yup, parents are encouraged to participate) to be more intentional about enjoying things outside of screens.
Screen-Free Week, which runs from April 30 to May 6 this year, is an annual event “where children and adults turn off digital entertainment and celebrate being unplugged.” It's a program started by Commercial-Free Childhood, a US-based non-profit organization.
The aim is not to make kids and adults stop using gadgets completely, but to minimize screen use to a bare minimum. In other words, don’t use screens for entertainment. “Plan to unplug from digital entertainment and spend all that free time playing, reading, daydreaming, creating, exploring, and connecting with family and friends!” said the Screen-Free Week website.
“It used to be that ‘screens’ were only televisions and computers, which were used more for work than anything else. But now, screens are ubiquitous and intertwined with all aspects of daily life,” said pediatrician Dr. Claire McCarthy, in an article for Harvard Health Publications.
Smartphones aren’t just for calls and text anymore. We use our devices to go on social media, read the news, watch videos, get directions when driving, shop and order online, get answers to whatever questions we have, and many more. It’s no wonder that screens, which are with us almost always, can have such a strong pull.
So, what happens then? “[Screens] distract us from the world around us,” added Dr. McCarthy. A global survey revealed that children feel unimportant when their parents use their phones during meal times, conversations, when watching television, and playing outside.
The key is to be more mindful of screen-use. Don’t let it be the first thing you and the kids turn to when you have time to kill. “Let gadgets and screens be your last defense. Have these gadgets with you by all means—they are necessary especially now. [But] teach kids that there are other things they can play with,” said Michelle Lichauco-Tambunting, the directress and co-founder of Young Creative Minds Preschool who also holds a master's degree in education from Harvard University.
Here are a few things you can do at home to participate in Screen-Free Week, or whenever you want to prioritize family bonding time: 1.Have a designated place or area at home where all phones and tablets will be placed until they need to be used.
2.Use phones for calls and text only. Turn off the Wi-Fi modem and only turn it on when necessary.
3.Turn the screen of your phone gray so it’s less tempting to scroll through feeds aimlessly. Find out why this is effective and where you can find this feature on your phone here.
4. Set up fun screen-free activities for your child. The effort is worth it! Find easy and fun ideas your child can busy herself with here and activity books for preschoolers and up here.
5. Go on a low-budget day out. Arrange an afternoon picnic at the park, visit Museo Pambata (get tickets for just P150 until August with this coupon), or let your child pick what she wants at a bookstore or grocery (no junk food) with a below-P250 receipt goal.
“We model so much for our children unconsciously. In the car, I have to put a pause button on myself and say, ‘You know what, my son just got out school, maybe we can talk about that instead of me checking my email or Instagram feed.’ We need to make an effort. If we want the digital world to work for us, we all need to learn to control it,” said Michelle.