Tag Archives: Screen-Free Week

RENEWING A LOVE FOR THE OUTDOORS THIS SPRING: Screen-Free Week 2019

guest blog by Rinny Yourman, JD, Screen-Free Week Outreach Coordinator, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, OAK Member

When children have free time to themselves, how do we want them to spend it?

We hope they’ll spend it looking down –not at screens– but digging in the dirt, gardening, collecting shells or stones, admiring flowers, watering plants. Maybe they’ll spend it looking up –admiring birds, trees, clouds, sunsets, and stars. Perhaps they’ll get moving, choosing to hike, bike, canoe, explore. Or maybe they will simply lie still, quietly attuned to the nature sounds and breezes that envelope them.

Screen-Free Week, the annual, international celebration that takes place this year April 29-May 5, encourages children, families, schools, and communities to set aside entertainment screens for a week and instead fill their free time with all kinds of screen-free fun. There is no prescription for how to celebrate, other than to go entertainment screen-free. So children can read, garden, exercise, craft, knit, explore, meditate, volunteer, hike, anything.

Elementary and high school students from Chicago Waldorf School clean up
Welles Park during Screen-Free Week 2017.

In 2018, Screen-Free Week celebrations around the world included a vast variety of nature experiences and time spent outdoors. We heard from families, schools, and communities that they enjoyed, among other things: gardening, hikes, bike rides, visits (to nature centers, parks, farms, arboretums, public gardens, farmers markets, planetariums), playground meet-ups, nature and bird walks, beach activities, seed exchanges, garden day, nature programs, canoeing, nature journaling, bike-to-school day, outdoor festivals, tree treks, nature-themed crafts, kite flying, and so much more.

Screen-Free Week is an especially magical week for nudging the kids in our lives to spend time outdoors. Milder weather stirs a natural desire in us to immerse ourselves in nature. Why not capitalize on this inclination by celebrating Screen-Free Week 2019 with nature-themed activities? We invite zoos, aquariums, nature centers, public gardens, and national, state, and local parks to encourage children to visit and explore during Screen-Free Week.

We’d be thrilled to see every family, school, and community initiate a gardening project in honor of Screen-Free Week. Gardening provides children with a lifelong skill, beautifies and feeds, instructs about local ecology, is suitable indoors or out, and teaches patience and persistence.

Our dream is that in the near future, young adults will claim that it was during Screen-Free Week when their parents, caregivers, teachers, grandparents, or family friends first introduced them to their love of gardening.

This year, Screen-Free Week falls during the same week as the 100th-anniversary celebration of Children’s Book Week. Why not celebrate both events with a nature-themed twist? As we all know, children’s books can be meaningful portals to discovery. So before Screen-Free Week begins, be on the lookout for children’s books that inspire home or school garden projects. Then, during Screen-Free Week, bring children’s books with you on outdoor excursions, to help children identify constellations, cloud formations, birds, trees, flowers, and insects. And consider finding nature-themed arts and crafts books for creative inspiration.

There are fascinating nature-related fiction books worth reading during Screen-Free Week. How many of us have been moved by such novels as Island of the Blue DolphinsMy Side of the Mountain or Hatchet? How many of our kids have committed to wildlife conservation efforts from such titles such as The Loraxand Hoot? In honor of both events, why not encourage a child to read any book she desires, but do it outdoors, whether in a hammock, on the balcony, or at the scenic terminus of a hiking trail? How about reading aloud to a child, while you are both sitting outside?

Ideally, we want kids to complete Screen-Free Week with a renewed sense of connection to the earth and the outdoors. Perhaps, if given the chance, they’ll emerge from Screen-Free Week with a newfound love of nature or outdoor activity. Hopefully, the week will invite them, along with their families, to engage in more mindful use of tech going forward. And maybe they’ll invite a friend or family member to enjoy some outdoor time, together.

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, which hosts Screen-Free Week, invites nature lovers everywhere to download free Screen-Free Week resources and register their Screen-Free Week celebrations at here.

Re-posted with permission from the Children & Nature Network

A TIME TO UNPLUG: Get Ready for Screen-Free Week!

Guest blog by Rinny Yourman, JD – originally appeared on childrenandnaturenetwork.org.  OAK is a proud endorser of Screen-Free Week.

Imagine a week when children give their undivided attention to the natural world around them. With the exception of school and homework, they spend that week outdoors – hiking, biking, reading, exploring, gardening, collecting, stargazing, dreaming.

With not a smartphone in sight, they are intently focused on their surroundings – shifting clouds, myriad bird songs, velvety moss, scented peonies, foraged edible plants.

This magical week is real and rapidly approaching. It’s called Screen-Free Week and it takes place this year from April 30-May 6. During this annual, international event, children and families are encouraged to unplug from entertainment screens and instead enjoy a host of fun screen-free activities, including reading, playing, exercising, crafting – and, of course, gardening, exploring nature, and enjoying outdoor recreation.

There are many reasons to carve out a screen-free week during the school year.  2016 study by the nonprofit Common Sense Media found that teens consume an average of nearly nine hours of entertainment media daily, while tweens average nearly six hours – and those averages exclude screen time for school and homework.  A similar study of children aged eight and younger found an average of two and a quarter hours of entertainment screen use daily.

What impact does this excessive time with screens have on children?  The evidence is mounting that it’s taking a toll on their physical, emotional, and social health. The American Academy of Pediatrics citesincreased risks of obesity, sleep disturbances, depression, internet gaming disorder, reduced school performance, earlier initiation into a host of risky behaviors, and the potential for exposure to sex offenders and cyberbullying. Other research has found that teens’ smartphone and social media use are correlated with increased rates of unhappiness and depression. And that when increased screen time displaces human interaction, children’s ability to read social cues is impaired.

These alarm bells would be less compelling if it were easy for children to disconnect. However, former tech industry insiders are now warning of the ways that tech companies have made unplugging nearly impossible.  And children aren’t the only ones struggling to disconnect. In a Common Sense Media studyof parents of teens and tweens, screen media use by parents for non-work purposes averaged almost eight hours per day.

Screen-Free Week is a small yet effective antidote to much of this stress, giving growing minds and bodies a much-needed respite from the seductive pull of digital screens and the constant barrage of harmful marketing messages.  When families take the week off together, they find that the screen break promotes such deep family connection that the experience informs more thoughtful screen choices for the remainder of the year.

While the nonprofit Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood hosts Screen-Free Week, CCFC is only a clearinghouse of information and ideas.

Screen-Free Week is a dynamic grassroots movement where the real heroes are the thousands of parents, caregivers, teachers, librarians, activists, and community leaders who prepare a week’s worth of screen-free events, from bicycle rodeos to book readings to picnics to crafts activities and much more.

They are the ones who infuse Screen-Free Week with heart and spirit. Knowing children as well as they do, they commit to this undertaking year after year because they recognize that Screen-Free Week is more engaging and festive when it is celebrated with others.

Thanks to all of this organizing effort, there is yet another unique benefit of Screen-Free Week: it gives children the time and opportunity to explore activities that are new to them. During Screen-Free Week, children discover a love of such activities as cooking, knitting, reading Harry Potter books, and volunteering. Our goal for 2018 is to firmly cement gardening, nature exploration, and outdoor recreation to this growing list of new interests.

We invite naturalists and park rangers, master gardeners and beekeepers, parks and nature centers to help spread the news that spending time in nature is the perfect screen-free activity. While there may not be sufficient time to organize formal Screen-Free Week activities this year, we know that nature centers and local, state, and national parks routinely schedule screen-free nature and outdoor activities, so don’t hesitate to reach out to fans and followers to suggest they join your already scheduled activities during Screen-Free Week. Or just encourage members of your social networks to head outdoors, visit a local park or nature center, enjoy a family hike or bike ride, or try their hand at gardening during Screen-Free Week. With your support, we can help families, schools, and communities discover that the outdoors and Screen-Free Week truly are a natural fit.

Photo Credits: Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood & Children & Nature Network

CCFC invites nature lovers everywhere to plan ahead for next year’s Screen-Free Week, scheduled for April 29-May 5, 2019.