Strategies for Going Screen-Free

Featured Article, Growth and Development

As the spring arrives and it seems certain that the warm weather is here to stay, I’m hearing from more and more families about their adventures in e-toxing or digital-free days. A getaway to the mountains, an Easter holiday, a return to a treasured box of toys at a beach cottage … these are a few of the places being preserved from tech invasion. Families are working deliberately to protect their time together and ensure experiences of meaningful connection when it matters. And while we understand that technology is a permanent part of our lives—and we probably wouldn’t change that even if we could—it feels more important than ever to nurture tech balance in our lives.

So, where do we begin? Screen Free Week, taking place this week, is an inspiring time to try an e-tox. There are great resources available, and you’re not alone in the world of the unplugged. Not sure if your family can make it through the entire week without a screen? Take baby steps. Find some time each day for your family to be screen-free this week and see how it feels. What do you like? What was uncomfortable? E-toxing can be a real challenge and takes practice, so be gentle with yourself! Incorporate these strategies from the Slow Tech Philosophy to build a tech-healthy family starting today!

  • Make it fun! Talk to your family about the challenge and gather their input. Even if they seem unhappy to be device-free at first, kids really crave play and attention. They’ll adapt in no time!
  • Establish No-Tech Times. Make certain times “No Phone Zones” or designated times without technology. This can include family outings, time in nature, during meal times or while visiting with friends.
  • Host a party. Invite friends over for a device-free gathering. Let guests know ahead of time how much you value their company and how you’d love to have everyone together in the moment without technology for a change. Offering yummy food will help motivate skeptical attendees!
  • Go away! In the truest sense of the word … leave your technology behind even if it’s just for the afternoon. Prepare by alerting coworkers, clients and family of your intentions, and then cut the ties and be gone.
  • Make time to play. Gather some friends and neighbors for a community game of kickball, soccer or tag. Bringing people together during the e-tox helps us see the value in building relationships, being outdoors and the power of play!
  • Slow down. Take an opportunity to walk to the market or the park. Prepare a meal that requires a little extra effort. Choose a book to read aloud that might take some extra time. Filling our minutes with the process helps us to feel productive when we’re screen-free.
  • Spruce up your supplies. Make sure markers, papers and crayons are accessible. Take a trip to the library to stock up on new reading materials. Find a board game at a yard sale, or trade toys with a friend for the week.
  • Mix it up. Try a new playground, ice cream shop or even eat breakfast for dinner. Little changes can engage families making time away from screens something to get excited about!

Janell Burley Hoffmann, author of iRules: What Every Tech-Healthy Family Needs to Know About Selfies, Sexting, Gaming, and Growing Up, is a parent coach who writes about parenting and technology for The Huffington Post; has a weekly spot on “American Public Media Marketplace,” NPR, as tech etiquette consultant; and has been covered by major national media, including Good Morning America. She lives in Sandwich, Mass.

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