Going Screen Free for One Week
This April, the Center for a Commercial Free Childhood (CCFC) is once again organizing a “Screen-Free Week.” Originally known as “TV-Turnoff Week,” the name and scope of this annual celebration have evolved as electronic media has taken over so many gadgets.
CCFC and the 69 organizations endorsing the effort—including the Center for a New American Dream—are encouraging people to turn off all screen-based entertainment for the week of April 18–24. (They’re realistic enough to know not to ask all us computer-based drones to turn off our screens altogether as we’d probably lose our jobs.)
But how hard is it to turn off screen media for a week? If you’re the average American, you consume five hours of TV each day plus additional hours surfing the web and, if you have one, a smart phone or tablet. That’s a lot of hours, and the sudden void of entertainment during that time might even make you restless or agitated. (Screen media can be addicting.)
So, if you’re excited about trying this "media fast," it’s a good moment for it, as it’s Lent (a time of fasting for some) as well as the start of spring weather for many, so there’s opportunity to get outside. But make sure you go in with a plan: a plan to play an extra board game with friends one night, a plan to go for a walk outdoors after dinner another night, a plan to read a novel that’s been collecting dust for a few years on your bookshelf (do e-books count as screens?), a plan to go to a play, or even simply to get a few extra hours of sleep a few nights that week (many Americans are chronically sleep-deprived).
There is a lot to do beyond screen media, and skipping these and the commercials they’re a vehicle for, even for just a week, might be as restorative as a good vacation (after all, we are talking about up to 35 hours of reclaimed time—an entire work week minus the lunch hour!).
Like with impulse shopping, a week later, you might discover that you don’t even care about the TV shows you skipped. And perhaps that’ll lead to a new reduction in weekly TV watching. If you still really want to watch a specific show, it’ll surely be online the following week. But hopefully that won’t mean you stay up an extra hour the following week to squeeze that missed show into your busy TV-watching routine—but rather that it replaces another, less-important TV show.
And by the way, CCFC has created an organizer’s kit in case you want some official-looking tools to recruit others (such as your friends, family, classmates, or colleagues) to join you in your Screen-Free Week. There is power in numbers after all, not to mention fun—persuading friends to join you translates to more potential board game players or people to join you for a play or a book discussion group.