I was hesitant when I received an email from Saskatchewan in motion inviting us to participate in their Screen Free Challenge Week. I love Saskatchewan in motion, don’t get me wrong, but the very nature of my job of managing a website and being a certified tech junkie, I am connected 24/7. A no-tech, no internet, no email challenge just sounded crazy.
First, I texted my partner Rita, and asked if she would take one for the team...before I could even get to the second text, convincing her how great it would be for HER family to try it, I received a NO, not happening. :) So, then I quickly turned my thoughts to processing how it would work, what we would do? I kept coming up with the answer "no, we can't do it". I did not think it was realistic for me and my family to go screen free for one week. But then it hit me on a Sunday morning at about 6:45 AM. I sauntered downstairs, groggy-eyed searching for a coffee to wake me up, and the house was dead quiet. Where is everyone? Am I in the right house? As I descended the stairs, I realized my family was awake and in front of me. I saw my two kids and husband all looking at screens, sitting two inches away from each other and very absorbed in YouTube, news, funny cat videos, Minecraft. Everyone was on a tablet and I am sure my kids were not reading the New York Times and studying up on world events. In the words of Charlie Brown, GOOD GRIEF! Yes, we needed to try a #ScreenFreeChallenge!
WHAT IS THE SCREEN FREE CHALLENGE?
In honour of Screen Free Week, May 2-8, 2016, Saskatchewan in motion wants to challenge your family to go screen free for up to one week. Experts recommend that kids have no more than 2 hours of screen time per day (not including school/homework use) and no screen time for kids under the age of two years old. Statistics show Canadian kids average six to seven hours of screen time A DAY. That cannot be right? But if it is, YIKES! That includes watching television, using computer, tablet and/or hand held gaming units like a DS. That is way too much time in front of a screen for an adult, let alone a kid. If we simply turned off the devices, maybe we can connect with family. Now, I am not saying that screen time is bad, after all, technology is a wonderful thing. When I am lost and need to call on the Google Map Gods quick, or lock my keys in my car and can’t get home or need to know if a business is opened, I can use my smartphone to call for help, look up directions - instantly. It saves us time and that is sometimes worth more than money. BUT I also know too much is not good for my brain, so what is it doing to my kids? If you are like me and don’t know how much time your kids are spending online, watching TV or playing computer games, you can use this handy Screen Free Tracker Form (www.saskatchewaninmotion.ca/public/images/SIM-Reactivity-Screen-Time-Tracking-Log.pdf) to track your time online before you decide to take the challenge.
The rules are simply a suggestion and you can tweak them to help your family reach whatever goal you wish to accomplish for the week. For example, I started the challenge on a Sunday night until the following Friday, not quite a week but I thought I would get more buy in from my family to participate if it was during a time that they would realistically not miss it. Just my own quirky way of seeing if it would work. Also, we did not go cold turkey 100%, after all, I am not crazy my friends. I thought that would be cruel. Instead, I allowed ½ hour before or after school, my kids got the power to choose so they would feel in control and want to participate. There were rules to this too. If they chose afterschool, they had to have all their homework completed first. If it was morning time, they had to be ready for their day before tablet time (dressed, snacks packed, back pack, ready to walk out the door). Also, I did not allow screens of any type at the table when we had meal times. Breakfast, lunch and dinner were ways for us to disconnect from the screens, share our day, talk about stuff and plan what we would do with our new free time. They were allowed internet access if they needed it to do homework, research something and if they had an educated question (like do dogs have eyebrows - remember this is my kids asking not me), I allowed them to use Google.
Here are the rules, but feel free to add or modify to make your own:
- No TV.
- Computers, smart phones and tablets for work or school use only.
- Phones need to be used as phones only.
- Tablets and smart phones for streaming music.
- Try to replace your screen time with activities that are active and not another sedentary activity.
HOW DID WE DO
It was challenging, I am not going to lie, but I did some pre-planning and wrote down lots of ideas and activities that we could do as a substitute to screen time. The kids contributed to the list and it enabled them to feel they were not missing out and help choose what to do with our time. I knew if I gave them fun options, they would feel like they were not missing out. I also knew the times of day they would want to just veg-out and watch YouTube, so having a list of things ready for when we were most vulnerable to “cheat” was a good strategy to help them have an alternate activity. Instead of family movie night, we went for walks with our dog, we scootered around the neighborhood, we had trampoline challenges in the backyard. We went to our local creek to throw rocks in the water and see who could make the biggest splash. We played soccer and practiced shooting hoops together. We also had a lot of help from their neighborhood friends, who wanted to simply just play out on the street. Since the weather is warmer and it’s lighter later now, it helps to kick them outside and let them play, like every kid should. I even extended bed times so they could play outside longer. We also started spring cleaning our yard and one night they helped me do some Spring cleaning on our car. It was good to spend time with them and talk to them. On our walks, I learned more about what my daughter thinks and feels, just by listening to her talk about her day and not interrupt. There were some times, yes, it wasn’t perfect. Did we make 6 days without YouTube? NO! Were we perfect? NO! This challenge is not about beating yourself up, we have plenty of those moments. It allowed me to be more aware of how much time my kids are viewing a screen. It made us more aware of what we could do together and move as a family to be healthier. It also helped me to evaluate exactly how much time my kids are watching an iPad and the quality of what they are watching. After the challenge, if they felt they wanted to have a ½ hour of watching some Netflix, then it felt okay to let them watch a show, knowing we went for a walk first, knowing we did have some family time and bonding before they watch a show. Give it a go, see how your family does and you can only thrive more too. GOOD LUCK!
IDEAS & TOOLS TO HELP IN THE SCREEN FREE CHALLENGE
For more details on the Screen Free Challenge, resources, tools and ideas to help your family participate and succeed during the Screen Free Challenge Week, see these links:
CHALLENGE & CONTEST - THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED.
CONGRATULATIONS MARLYN DANDRIDGE is the WINNER.
Here is a little incentive to giving the #SCREENFREECHALLENGE a try! Thanks to Saskatchewan in motion, we are giving away a prize pack that includes a 2016 Saskatchewan Annual Park Pass (good for entry into any Saskatchewan Provincial Park), Hot Potato game, a copy of The Kid’s Outdoor Adventure Book and a pack of screen free activity tracker sheets. All you have to do is participate in the Screen Free Challenge and then enter online here. Send us your full name, telephone number and email address to “contests at kinderbuzz dot com”. Please put "Screen Free Week" in the subject line. Contest is open from April 28 – May 8, 2016.
CONTEST RULES & REGULATIONS: One entry per email address. There will be 1 winner chosen randomly. No cash equivalent, non-transferable, and no substitutions will be made. Entry into the contest confirms agreement with these rules, including consent to publicize the winner’s name. Contest ends 11:59 PM CST, Sunday, May 8, 2016. The winner will be contacted by email and announced on this page and our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/kinderbuzz).