Mary Holohan is a high schooler who celebrates Screen-Free Week with her family every year. In this blog, she tells us what it was like.
My heart thumps violently. Sweat begins to pool on the palms of my hands. Anxiety wreaks havoc in my stomach. I begin patting myself down, frantically searching my pockets to try and locate… my phone.
Misplacing or losing your phone can feel like the end of the world. In high school, most teenagers have smartphones and can become quite attached.
I am one of them. And yet I spent a week “screen free” to break away from the distraction that takes over my life.
Screen-Free Week is an annual international movement facilitated by Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. Our family participates in Screen-Free Week every year to reset and see the true impact screens can have on our well being.
The rules of Screen-Free Week are no screens unless for a school or work assignment or vital communication. I also turned off all notifications except for text messages and deleted Instagram from my phone for the week.
I chose to take you through the week with me to highlight the impact Screen-Free Week had.
As soon as my alarm rang out I immediately reached for my phone to check the latest updates on social media, but I had to catch myself. Before I started browsing, I turned my alarm off and chose to simply lay in bed. The rest of the day went similarly, every time I had the urge to reach to my phone when there was downtime in class or sitting at my lunch table, I corrected myself and found an alternative. Already on day one I noticed how all the “quick” checks throughout a day add up.
Today I was more accustomed to not relying on my phone to fill time and I already noticed a difference. My attention span was slowly getting longer. When I got home from school I pounded out homework without getting distracted and accomplished more in a smaller amount of time. I tend to get sidetracked quite easily, but when my phone wasn’t available I was able to get what I needed to do done. My family also had more time to be together. Instead of all scattering to our separate devices after dinner, we gathered and listened to my dad read a peculiar article about a man who kayaked the Atlantic ocean. Moments where my whole family gathered became more frequent.
Roughly halfway through the week I definitely felt a dramatic change. Around this time I began to notice the impact of not interacting with social media. I enjoy being present in social media. Turns out not knowing what people were having for lunch, or what test they were stressed about was a relief. I constantly compare my life, actions and looks to others on social. Because I was removed from these harsh comparisons, I was able to appreciate my own endeavors and push myself to make the most of my time.
At this point in the week, I fell into a routine and school helped my time management. When I returned home from school I finished my homework and then found alternate activities to do. I quickly realized I had time to go hammock with my sister or jump on the trampoline with my younger brother. I was already enjoying the time that I had to experience the world around me, rather than watching others’ experiences through my device.
Friday was the last day that I had the distraction of school to occupy my day. At this point in the week, I’d explain to my friends what I was doing and they seemed very supportive. I was surprised to encounter their enthusiasm and encouragement, and also their interest in participating themselves. They too noticed the same destructive and distracting factors that screens and phones can have on our lives, especially as teenagers. As I continued to set my phone aside, I noticed similar actions from the people I was around and more social interactions. When I thought ahead to the weekend I stretched myself to consider activities that weren’t as easy as binge watching a show.
The first day of the weekend and I enjoyed not having the option of staying inside. When I woke up and thought about what I had planned for my day I found that I had no distractions to prevent limitless ideas: I could go to ice cream with my family; have a bonfire with friends; accomplish homework all in one day. As I spent my weekend with friends and family I really enjoyed the connectivity found when I put my phone away and conversations grew.
The last day of Screen-Free Week caused me to reflect on what I had learned throughout the week and what I may have underestimated at the beginning. At dinner Sunday night my family discussed how we thought Screen-Free Week benefited us, what changed, what we enjoyed and some aspects we may have missed.
- My time was spent doing more valuable things that I truly wanted to do, rather than getting sucked into the abyss a phone provides.
- I had real and meaningful conversations with my friends and I could accomplish things in a shorter and more efficient amount of time.
- I didn’t miss the presence of social media in my life and that knowing what people are doing constantly wasn’t necessary.
- How much of teen culture is focused on social media and you can feel left out when you’re not keeping up with Snapchat stories and Instagram feeds.
- Everyone should take time to step away from their devices whether it be a couple hours, a couple days, or a whole week, and try to appreciate the world around you and the time you have.
This article was originally published in The Roar, a student publication of Northview High School.