Your Screen-Free Week 2019 stories

Your Screen-Free Week 2019 stories

Screen-Free Week 2019 was the best yet! Communities and families gathered to create, connect, and celebrate at 1,000 Screen-Free Week events in 24 countries and 49 states – and on every continent except Antarctica!

Whether it was building new worlds out of cardboard boxes or enjoying a long walk that ended with ice cream, kids and adults played together, explored together, and just plain got to spend time together! We loved hearing about the new things people explored and the old interests they rediscovered with their time away from screens.

Residents of Canfield, OH enjoyed community activities throughout Screen-Free Week, including a chalk drawing contest judged by the mayor and a town-wide pizza and dance party. According to City Manager Wade Calhoun, their celebration was a success! “Our community feedback was 100% positive!” said City Manager Wade Calhoun. “Everyone who attended the events was thankful and appreciated the initiative. We already are getting commitments for next year.”

During his family’s Screen-Free Week celebration in Providence, Rhode Island, 9 year-old William wrote his own newspaper. The top stories? His school’s taco night, and the opening of his very own 4-star pizzeria!

In New Market, MD, families enjoyed making fairy garden gates at the The Original Playhouse Children’s Museum.

In Christchurch, NZ, Screen-Free Week organizer Miriam McCaleb and her daughter both learned something new. “I LOVED Screen-Free Week,” Miriam told us. “I always do. My little girl learned to ride her bike without trainer wheels and I learned to play gin rummy!  When it was over on Monday morning, my little girl was sad!  She digs it, too!” Miriam also wrote an op-ed about Screen-Free Week in her local newspaper, encouraging other families to get in on the fun!

In Tehachapi, CA, Screen-Free Week organizer Elisa Carlson hosted what sounds like the coolest cooking class ever! With help from Tehachapi’s historic Errea House and Healthy Hands Cooking, Elisa’s students got a view into history with a tour of the historic house. Afterward, they made flower arrangements, table settings, and their very own early-1900s-style meal using fresh ingredients and old-school methods! “I love promoting wonder in children’s’ lives – wonder that can be so limited by man-made technology,” said Elisa. “I believe you can find wonder in the juiciness of a tomato and in the tiny petals of a flower as well as in contemplation of how people lived in our hometown 100 years ago!”

In Minneapolis, MN, the City of Lakes Waldorf School became a screen-free sanctuary for the week, and students decorated the building with notes on their favorite screen-free activities.

Families in Chilton, WI, students enjoyed a full week of screen-free fun! On one day, the Eastshore Humane Society brought some furry friends for kids and parents to greet. And later that week, families crafted together during Create and Read night.

In Buffalo, NY, Vicki Martinez’s daughter painted a picture nearly as tall as she is!

In the small town of Burns, OR, Harney District Hospital outreach coordinator Savanna Cate organized a SFW Pledge outreach table at Hines Middle School. Savanna says that they were able to genuinely engage with over 100 students! She found that students were really open about their screen use, and that they had a lot of questions about the screen time habits of the adults in their lives. “I feel confident this generation has a good grasp on the importance of active vs sedentary activities,” said Savanna. “I can’t wait to see how this campaign helps to shape our beloved youth in America.”

While CCFC staffer David Monahan’s family was celebrating Screen Free Week, six-year-old Lillian adorned the living room TV with some of her favorite stuffed animals. Lillian also put on an outdoor concert, with the help of her trusty air guitar and a mic stand made out of a tree branch, and got her family to help clean up nature: “Screen-Free Week is a good time to go outside, walk in the park, and pick up trash,” Lillian says. “If we take care of the world, the world will take care of us.”

At Mounds Park Academy in MN, Russ Purdy kept up what might be one of our favorite Screen-Free Week traditions. For the 22nd (yes, 22nd!) year in a row, Russ challenged his students to go screen-free, promising that “If 45 or more Lower School students signed up and “survived” the week screen-free, I would color my hair pink.” The result? “We had 61 [students] sign up. Not only did students participate, but siblings and parents participated as well!”

The town of Round Hill, VA celebrated Screen-Free Week for the second time this year. Organizer Kathi Hottinger says it was “a joy” to help her town plan Screen-Free Week! Their celebration began with an Earth Day festival, where kids planted trees, learned about composting, and painted rocks. Other activities throughout the week included a family nature scavenger hunt and a family book fair.

Yorkshire Elementary in York, PA, filled their Screen-Free Week with fun family events. Students, families, and teachers loved the celebration, which included a hike, an ice cream social, and even a visit from an alligator named Wally! Principal Kim Stoltz especially enjoyed cardboard night, where parents helped their kids make cardboard creations. Although the school planned to display the crafts, Principal Stoltz says “the kids were so attached to what they created they ended up taking them home!”

Thanks so much to all the organizers, communities, and families who made Screen-Free Week 2019 such an exciting week for kids. We can’t wait to celebrate in 2020!

A volunteer’s view on Screen-Free Week

Hi there – my name is Kristen and I am the 2019 Screen-Free Week volunteer! It has been a pleasure getting to see all the wonderful events that you all have registered. I have been shocked at how widespread these events are. From Puerto Rico to India, these events are truly all around the world!

My interest in Screen-Free Week stemmed from my public health background and desire to care for others. My experience working with children strengthened my passions and has shown me the importance of spending meaningful, face-to-face time with others. It has been encouraging to see so many Screen-Free Week events and how people have used this time to be active together. Being a part of this event has not only been refreshing both physically and mentally, but encouraging as well. I have felt as though I am part of a supportive team working towards a goal.

A few weeks ago, I read an article about the difficulties a parent was facing in getting their child on board with limiting screen time and how they were working towards engaging in screen-free activities. This article stuck with me because, for many of us, this is a reality. I myself often find it difficult to engage in many screen-free activities. Screens are everywhere, our computers, phones, and even in our cars! With screens so present in my daily life, I have to remind myself to start small. I now realize adjusting my screen time is not something that will happen overnight. Limiting my screen time for any durable length of time is a habit I must create. Just like tying my shoes or fastening my seatbelt, I know to create this habit, it will take repetition and time.  

So, Screen-Free Week was my start. It was the start of my commitment to limit my screen time and move more – in fact, I signed up for my first triathlon and used the week to begin training! While my first week was tiring, it was great. It reminded me of my interests and the things I enjoy doing in the world outside of screens. All in all, I have discovered how encouraging Screen-Free Week is. It is a time to rediscover my interests and try something new! Thank you, Screen-Free Week, for encouraging me to rediscover interests and spend more time with the ones I love.

Kristen is Screen-Free Week’s volunteer. When she’s not volunteering with us, she works with Strong4Life, a wellness movement from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, where she helps coordinate various community, camp and provider programs.

What we learned this Screen-Free Week

What we learned this Screen-Free Week

CCFC staff enjoy lunch on a sunny day during Screen-Free Week

One of the great joys of Screen-Free Week is that it’s a brand new experience every year – whether this is your first, third, or tenth time unplugging, there’s always something new to learn! Here’s what the CCFC staff discovered about ourselves, our screens, and what it means to unplug during Screen-Free Week 2019.  

Our time is ours, and we have more of it than we think

On the first day of Screen-Free Week, CCFC program coordinator Sam Garin and executive director Josh Golin made the same startling discovery: we actually do have time to do the things we love! For Sam, the realization came when she dug up an old literary textbook from high school. “It was full of all these poems I loved and hadn’t read in years,” she says. “I spent Monday night just reading poetry, and at 9 I looked up and realized I could still do chores and get to bed early – I had so much time!”

Josh noticed a change on the first day, too: “Everything felt easier,” he says, “from getting everyone out the door in the morning to cooking, eating, and cleaning up after dinner. I wasn’t stressing out, rushing from task to task – even the annoying things like bringing an overflowing recycling bin down two flights of stairs felt not-annoying, and once they were done, I had all this time to do actually fun stuff like read or play games with my family.”

Our brains can be really, really loud

“I was walking to the train, and I was really committed to not being on my phone,” says Darshana Shakya, CCFC’s operations coordinator. “And my mind started racing with all of these questions that I suddenly felt like I needed to look up, even though I knew it wasn’t actually urgent. I really wanted that instant gratification from knowing the answer.” She didn’t look up anything her brain was telling her to, but resisting the urge was definitely not easy.

Communications manager Melissa Campbell had a similar experience, but unlike Darshana, couldn’t resist: “I started Screen-Free Week fresh off a breakup, and at one point, I literally thought If you just looked at some funny tweets you would feel better,” she says. “I mean, that’s just not true! But the pull was so strong that more than once I found myself scrolling aimlessly through my timeline, reading the same tweets over and over again. My brain kept telling me Twitter would help, even as it was actively not helping!”

We’re never actually Screen-Free, even when we really want to be

During Screen-Free Week, CCFC staff used screens to check the weather, look up bus times, pay bills, talk to far-away friends and family, find recipes, play music, and countless other little tasks that felt like they should be discrete, but actually acted as a gateway to not-utilitarian screen use. “Smartphones aren’t made to just let you do one thing,” says Josh, noting that having to look at his screen often interrupted otherwise serene moments. “Having an actual phone-free week would probably be much more peaceful and smooth, but would take so much more prep.”

A “successful” Screen-Free Week is different for everyone

Since almost no one can be literally screen-free, even for a week, the “success” of Screen-Free Week is up to the person celebrating! For CCFC’s screen time program manager, Jean Rogers, success meant finding new ways to relax and restore: “My husband and I are so wiped out at the end of the day, especially with long commutes, that we just want to crash in front of the TV,” she says. “It’s our default relaxation! So this week, we really focused on finding other things to do, like listening to the radio together, reading in front of the fire, or playing piano and singing together. I thought, why don’t we do this more?”

For campaign manager David Monahan, a successful Screen-Free Week is all about balance. “I think of screens as junk food,” he says, “and make room for it in my day the way I make room for mochas in my diet. Screen-Free Week is a time where I can kind of check in, like, oh, is this actually balanced? Am I actually in control?”

And even when our goals were concrete, they often led to other surprises: “My goal was no social media,” says Darshana, “but it turned out that that revealed this other goal, which was about restoring connection – finding those moments where you and your family might have been looking at a screen, but now you’re spending time with each other instead.”

Sam agrees. “I wanted to stop checking news sites compulsively,” she says, “and be really intentional that if I was using my phone, it was to connect, not to consume. I definitely feel like I succeeded, because I usually felt good whenever I put my phone down.”

We want to hear about your Screen-Free Week! What did you notice, encounter, or discover? How will you carry it with you? Send us a note – or a photo, video, audio message, poem, painting, or anything else! – at ccfc@commercialfreechildhood.org and tell us all about it.