You’ve probably heard about the risks of screen overuse, the lure of addictive digital media and the concern that we may be putting our physical and mental health at risk. Maybe you’ve even read Cal Newport’s newest book, Digital Minimalism and thought about trying the 30-Day digital detox suggested. But then, there’s life, work, kids, and...behavior change is hard.
That’s why we’re going all in on Screen-Free Week (SFW), April 29-May 5, 2019! Why? Because unlike month-long sabbaticals, SFW is uniquely doable for ALL families. The program’s brilliance is its provocative name, yet flexible, practical guidelines. In an effort to help families turn Screen-Free Week into a Screen-Free Summer, we're offering $100 off our online course until the end of May. Enter code SFW.
A National Celebration! 🎉
SFW suggests we - families, schools and communities - replace passive, isolating media consumption with activities that connect us to friends, family, and self. Unlike rigid mandates, SFW is inspirational, experiential and fun! The week’s celebration ethos allows for broad interpretation, and hopefully, more widespread adoption. Since each family decides for itself the definition of “screen-free”, everyone can gain value from the experience, guilt-free. The SFW Web site offers information, downloadable templates, and maps to local events across the country.
You'll Survive, We Promise 🤢
What to do with all the extra time? The organizers suggest 101 Activities that include exercise, restorative sleep, creative play, enjoying nature, face-to-face socializing and the lost art of boredom! The goal is not to create a bunch of Luddites, it’s to get comfortable being offline, discover new (and old) ways of enjoying free time, and rethink tech-life balance.
But I Gotta Work! 👩💻
Beyond reconnecting families, the week can be productivity nirvana! You can work, email, create presentations, snap photos, and continue doing things that qualify as “Time Well Spent,.” the aptly named movement started by Tristan Harris, the former Design Ethicist at Google. Kids can continue using technology productively for school and for homework. The program focuses on the “digital slot machines,” or recreational screen time. We all know the culprits, apps, streaming media and social networks on which we waste hours scrolling, watching and evaluating other people’s curated lives. It’s a chance to stop consuming digital media we know is not in service to our future selves, but we can’t resist.
A Brief History 📜
SFW is sponsored by the non-profit, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), a non-profit organization that educates the public about commercialism's impact on kids' well being and advocates for the end of child-targeted marketing.
Humble Beginnings 📺
Prior to finding a home at CCFC, SFW started over 15 years ago to address a media consumption problem that today feels like child’s play - watching too much television. In 1994 Henry Labalme and Matt Pawa started “National TV Turnoff Week.” With a program that seems quaintly old-fashioned today, Labalme and Pawa distributed “TV Turnoff Kits” for $10, complete with a poster, bumper sticker, CD-ROM, Powerpoint, and award certificates. The tag line was “Turn Off TV – Turn On the Possibilities,” and the goal was to cut TV viewing time in half in 10 years.
Something Old, Something New 🏚️
Ironically, the pair probably succeeded, but not in the way they imagined. Sure, TV viewing has dropped precipitously, but at what expense? Who needs to be tethered to the living room when you can binge watch old Friends episodes from your phone, iPad or laptop? At the time, excessive TV viewing was linked to violent crime, mass paranoia, emotional alienation, poor school performance, and obesity, among others. Ring a bell? And like today’s pervasive digital media, sponsors dominated the airwaves with “you’re not good enough” messages like, 'You could be happy if only you had...the right floor wax, toilet cleaner, vehicles, etc.” Today, distractions are normalized, ads are indistinguishable from programming, targeting is personalized and the targets more vulnerable.
Leave em Wanting More! 😳
Since finding a home at CCFC in 2010, SFW has grown exponentially in its reach and influence. By providing more families, schools and communities around the world with tools, information and support the organizers hope people will end the week craving more of the peace, connection, and love they gain by giving up screen time.
In our work with families trying to reduce non-essential screens, we’ve found many parents are overwhelmed and tired of trying. Understandably, families with dual working co-parents with young kids, teens, and digitally-mandated homework are tired and just want to zone themselves. Parents won’t embrace a balanced, realistic solution until they know it’s worth it, and going Screen Free for a Week gives them a vision of what it's like on the other side. The hope is we’ll enjoy the experience and want more. Let’s celebrate family IRL!