Make your own rules for Screen-Free Week

Make your own rules for Screen-Free Week

There are no rules for Screen-Free Week! Plan whatever works for your family, organization, or community. Not sure where to begin? Let these stories from past Screen-Free participants be your guide!

Heather Ristau’s Story

“I look forward to Screen-Free Week every year. As screens and technology become more prevalent in our lives every day, we have to make a conscious effort to put the phone down, close the laptop, and keep the TV off.

For my husband and I and our two girls (ages 9 and 6), Screen-Free Week gives us the extra push we need to reset our habits as we move into the warmer months. We are lucky in our community to have people who put together a lot of fun resources and activities for the week. Some they plan themselves and others they just help spread the word about.

We’ve done everything from scavenger hunts to stargazing with high powered telescopes. That was our favorite activity last year. We went to a local state park where an astronomy group had their telescopes set up. The girls especially loved seeing the craters on the moon and watching the bats swoop through the air all around us.

We spend a lot of time outside already, but Screen-Free Week helps us put down technology and get outside even more to try new things in our community or to just take extra time as a family to read books or play games. We love spreading the word about Screen-Free Week and encouraging other families to find and enjoy the peace that comes with being Screen-Free!”

Ten Ten Recreation’s Story

“We celebrate Screen-Free Week with contests and initiatives with our before and after school program kids.

Those who choose to participate take a pledge to remain screen-free during Screen-Free Week (other than for educational purposes). Parents report how many days their child stayed off of screens, and for each day, the child will receive a raffle ticket for a cool prize.

Also, to promote being active, we plan to have kids run sprints in their gymnasium this year. For every sprint kids do in a minute Ten Ten will donate $1 to a local charity as a group.”

    Jacquelyn Schwanz’s Story

    “Screen-Free Week is a yearly tradition and the cornerstone for the transition to screen free summer!

    We live in Michigan where winter is unpredictable but spring and summer are phenomenal.

    Screen free week is our kick off for the summer and from day one,  we strive to not have screen time until the frigid months.

    Our children are four and two, and neither have ever missed the movie nights or cartoon afternoons as we are having too much fun gardening, exploring our property, and rock hunting. We are looking forward to participating again this year and advocating for Screen-Free Week to turn into Screen-Free Year!!!”

    Thank you to Heather, Ten Ten Recreation, and Jacqueline for sharing your stories with us! If you’d like to participate in Screen-Free Week 2023, take the pledge today. Or, if you’d like to plan an event, please visit our resource library

    Screen-Free Teen Roundtable

    Screen-Free Teen Roundtable

    Our 2023 Screen-Free Coordinator Jen Kane, recently sat down with three teenagers, ages 15-18, who have spent over a month screen-free during their summers to talk about that experience. The conversation is excerpted below.

    Jen: Can you tell me the pros and cons about having gone screen-free?

    Keely: When I did screen free [at a day camp] the phone was still there—in the room—but I wasn’t allowed to use it. That’s okay, but it’s even harder when you go somewhere where you’re not even remotely close to any devices. Thankfully, after a while you start to not think about it.

    Jen: So, do you think somebody needs to physically take away your device for you to be able to go screen free?

    Kaia: Yes. Sometimes I’ll be so bored, or I’m so sick of my phone, and I actually want to do something else. But then I’m still like, [mimes picking up phone] ‘what’s in this app?’

    Keely: I do that too.

    Ronnie: Sometimes I’m tired of being on my phone, so I’ll read a book. But I’ll still have my phone next to me. The minute it buzzes, I’m like, [mimes scrolling].

    Jen: Do you feel like you’re addicted to your phone?

    Kaia: For me personally, yeah. Even when I don’t want to be on it, I’m still on it. It’s the first thing I go to all the time, and I will get stressed out if I’m away from it for a long time.  

    Keely: Sometimes my timer goes off on YouTube, and says, “You spent four and a half hours on YouTube.” And I say, “yeah,” cancel the timer, and watch like, another three hours.

    Ronnie: I am a recovering Twitter addict. I’ve deleted it for, like, a week so many times. I always re-download it, even though I hate it. It makes me feel so bad that I’m so addicted to it.

    Jen: So how did you stop using Twitter in the past?

    Ronnie: It was very spur of the moment thing. There was one day where my timeline was so full of this one argument I thought was really stupid, and people were getting so aggressive over it. And I was just like, ‘why do I do this to myself?’ So, I deleted it.

    Kaia: That’s something I’ve done a lot too. I don’t have Twitter, but I’ve deleted TikTok so many times, because when I come back down to Earth, I’m like, ‘I’m not having fun. I don’t like this.’ It just makes me feel bad about myself. It makes me overly socially aware and anxious all the time. It makes you question your sense of self.

    That’s why I think it is an addiction. When I’m not on it, I’m like, ‘what a breath of fresh air!” Those constant boosts of serotonin in the moment creep up on you in a way that you don’t even realize that social media is the thing that’s making you so miserable.

    Jen: Is there anything in the real world that gives you that same high?

    Ronnie: Yeah. The Lord of the Rings. [everyone laughs because Ronnie really, really likes LOTR!]

    Jen: Okay, so what does it feel like when you go screen-free and eliminate all that noise in your life?

    Ronnie: I feel like I have a lot more time to do things. But sometimes I don’t know what to do. So, it’s like, ‘okay, I can read a book and I can journal.’ I can also have conversations about serious topics with friends and family that respect me, which is way different than Twitter.

    Keely: When I come back from a screen-free camp, I’ll sometimes catch up with people on my Instagram feed, text people, and watch reels. But that’s about it, unless it’s close friends. I don’t care about everything everybody posts every day.  

    Kaia: I journaled about this a lot, especially when I got back from [a screen-free] camp. When I’m really depressed or anxious it’s usually because of social media. Without that distraction it makes me think about myself a lot more. It’s almost like you forget how much fun your mind is when you’re constantly having this other stimulant. You forget what your own brain can do.

    Screen-Free week is for teens too! If your teen wants to participate this year, invite them to pledge to participate at The teens above aren’t going entirely screen-free on May 1, simply picking one problematic app from which to take a week-long break. Sounds like a great plan to us!


    A Parent’s Perspective on Screen-Free Week

    A Parent’s Perspective on Screen-Free Week

    As much as we’d love to think our role as parents is to protect our kids from screen time, chances are we might need some protecting, too!

    Even the most tech-savvy of us can be sucked into our devices, (SPOILER ALERT! They were designed to do that.) It doesn’t help that our work and personal lives increasingly intersect online and work/life balance has become less of a goal and more of a fairy tale.

    Screen-Free Week can help parents and caregivers, too, as the following guest post from past participant Amanda Gilbert explains.

    Screen Free week is always a great reset for our family. It helps us prioritize what really matters. 

    In our family, it is probably most beneficial for Mom and Dad. With our phones—that can do so much more than simply contact people—constantly on us, it is so easy to be sucked into the screen. Social media, shopping, movies and more grab our attention so readily. 

    During Screen-Free Week my husband and I commit to using our phones as phones only. We call and text with them, but no Facebook, Tiktok, or other media. I even try to go to the computer for email during that week so my phone is just a phone. 

    Every year this leads us to realize just how much we use our phones for media. We realize how often our heads are down and not focused on our children. We pledge to do better and we do better for a while, but then life catches up and we slip into old habits. Screen-Free Week gives us a chance to reset every year.  

    For the kids, it’s not too challenging. During the year, they only watch an hour of shows a day and occasional weekend tablet use. But they whine the first day and plead the second. By day three they are ready to find new things to replace show time. 

    Last year we built a fort, read lots more books, and played outside more. The kids became excited to come up with their own activities to replace our typical screen time. I’m looking forward to seeing what creative ideas they come up with this year in lieu of screen time!

    Thanks for your story, Amanda!

    Amanda’s thoughts are part of our “Share Your Screen-Free Story” campaign. If you’ve participated in Screen-Free week in the past and want to share your insights, please contact

    We’ll take your story however you’d like to share it—write it out, create a poem, sing a song, film a video, share art inspired by the experience. The choice is yours!

    Photo courtesy of Luemen Rutkowski via Unplash