Silence Your Screen: Unplug and Play

In today’s society, children have endless options for media entertainment right at their fingertips. The average American child spends 1,500 hours a year on some sort of electronic device, whereas they spend only 900 hours in a school setting.  In most homes, the TV is left on an average of seven hours a day, and 90 percent of parents with children under the age of 2 say that their children watch some form of electronic media for an average of one to two hours per day.

We all have read the studies about how excessive screen time is linked to poor school performance, childhood obesity and attention problems. But let’s face it, TV and other electronic devices are here to stay and, at times, make very convenient babysitters. We can’t wish them away, but we can limit the amount of time we use them.

Reduce your family’s reliance on electronics and do a screen detox during Screen Free Week (SFW), May 4-10. SFW happens once a year and was established to encourage families, communities and schools to exchange their electric devices for other enjoyments in life. The motto is “power down the screens and rev up involvement in life.”

Nothing is wrong with mixing some form of technology with kids, but “unplugging” them from their devices can inspire your children to explore new interests, create new hobbies, connect with family and friends, daydream and investigate the world around them. “We are so excited to go screen free this year,” Amanda Reeves, Gardner, says. “We need a screen detox after spending the winter months cooped up inside.”

Don’t worry. If spending an entire week away from electronics seems impossible and a little crazy, you are not alone! Here are a few helpful tips to get you started.

What does it mean? Decide what screen free means for you and your family. Of course, school programs and work obligations are excused, but does texting count? Or how about Skyping with family members? Maybe it just means no TV all week. Set obtainable goals that your family actually can accomplish.

Make it work for you. If you don’t think you can survive the entire week, just try for one day or do half days. There aren’t actual rules to follow. The goal is to reduce the amount of exposure to electronic devices you and your children are getting, so any reduction counts!  

Make a pledge. Get serious about it and unplug those TVs, cover up the gaming devices and hide the iPads. Think “out of sight, out of mind.” Write out the “rules” and keep each other accountable. That goes for you too, Mom and Dad! Ask friends, family and neighbors to join you. That way you’ll have extra support and can plan screen free things to do together during the week.

Start scheduling now. Start making plans now for your screen free week. Plan trips to the zoo, aquariums, parks, libraries and discovery museums. Do your kids want to learn how to roller skate or ride their bikes without training wheels? This would be a great time to get out, learn something new and get involved in your community. Check out KCParent’s calendar for events and more fun things to do!

Have a plan. Think about your daily routine. What time of the day do your kiddos usually reach for the technology? Have other activities available for them to enjoy such as a ready-made craft, puzzles or board games. Fill a jar with suggested activities they can choose from to encourage independent play. “I place random age-appropriate items and toys on a floor mat and see what the kids come up with,” says Ashley Wells from Lee’s Summit. If all else fails, send them outside! Pinterest is full of screen free activities along with free printable activity cards. 

Boredom is okay. It’s natural to want to entertain our children, but try suppressing that urge because, believe it or not, it’s good for them to be bored! Boredom creates creativity, which in turn allows them to discover themselves and the world around them on their own.  

Make an accomplishment book. Keep track of all the new and fun things you experienced during the week and make a “Look What I Did” book. Take pictures of the places you went, new things you tried, a goal you reached, the friends you played with and all the fun you had as a family.

Recap at the end of the week. At the end of SFW, sit down as a family and discuss how everyone feels. Ask questions: Was this a positive experience? What did you like or not like about the week? Are there things you would like to continue to do going forward? “I really enjoyed the family time at night without the electronics; it was so peaceful,” Beth Mason, Olathe, says. “The time spent together was real.  I’m hoping we can continue that.”

Reward yourself. After accomplishing an entire week of being screen free, reward yourself and your family. Plan on a very special outing for everyone to enjoy and to look forward to. Express how proud you are of them and explain the importance of setting limits to technology.

Taking out the technology is a challenge, no doubt about it. Hopefully after you’ve succeeded and survived an entire week without it, you will be inspired to create screen free habits that you use all year long. Good luck!


Jennifer Duxbury lives with her two children and husband in Olathe. She is looking forward to Screen Free Week this year and hopes she can survive it!

Books to Promote Being Screen Free

  • Doug Unplugged (ages 5-9)
  • hello! hello! (ages 2-6)
  • Press Here (ages 2 & up)
  • I’m Bored (ages 3-8)
  • A Few Blocks (ages 4-7)
  • Aunt Chip & the Great Triple Creek Dam Affair (ages 5-8)
  • How Rocket Learned to Read (ages 3-6)
  • The Best Story (ages 5-8)

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