The Screen Free Experiment

by Mary Ann on July 25, 2015

The Smith Family

The Smith Family

What if you went Screen Free, as a family, for a WHOLE MONTH!! Do you think you could do it? Would your family go nuts? Would everyone crack up? Would the fighting increase? Yikes!! A whole month!!

Remember that last week I gave you five tips to help you put your family first. Here is a recap of #3:

3. Turn off your digital devices, ditch technology – just for a while. Have technology free moments everyday. For example, maybe you have a TV, computer and no phone hour just before bed. When you are willing to let go of technology for even short amounts of time you will be surprised at how much time you can open up for family.

I suggested finding a few moments each day to turn technology off and I think that is a good idea. But after I wrote last weeks article I met a family that actually goes screen free for a whole month once a year. I got all the details from the mom, Courtney, and I want to share them with you because I think you will be so impressed that you might consider making this a tradition in your home.

So what is Screen Free you ask? No TV, no movies on TV, no computer time, no games on the phone, no screens.


Here is how the Smith’s make it work:

1. Prepare your kids ahead of time. This particular family goes screen free in June, every year. However, this year they didn’t begin talking about it early enough. They usually begin talking about it and making plans about a month in advance. So for the sake of having a successful Screen Free Month, this year they are doing it in July.

2. Presentation is everything. That is my phrase and you’ve heard me say it before, but it is what they do. They talk it up. They talk about all the great things they are going to be able to do as a family, how much fun they are going to have together, the family reward at the end of the month.

3. Get everyone to buy in. As Courtney was telling me how they get their kids to cooperate I said, “Oh you get them to buy in.” She smiled and said, “Well I didn’t have a term for it but yup that’s what we do.” They get their kids to buy in by allowing them to pick a reward they would like to have at the end of the month. It has to be a really fun family activity. It might be swimming, camping, eating out, going to the movie theater, visiting grandparents, a road trip, whatever the parents want to throw out there. When the kids pick it, plan it and talk about it – they are IN.

Here is their one caveat – They don’t use screen time as the reward. They don’t want to reward no screen time with screen time. : )

4. Parent’s have to be honest! It isn’t the kids who struggle the most, it’s the parents. They really do have to commit. Courtney told me that the hard part for her is at lunch. She usually has lunch when the big kids are at school and her little one is taking a nap. She likes to read Facebook, watch a show, catch up on the news, whatever, as she eats lunch. It is a challenge to read instead or call a friend.

It also becomes challenging for her and her husband in the evening when everyone is in bed. They usually veg out a bit in front of the TV, just the two of them but – YIKES – it’s screen free month. She told me that they have learned to play games together or read to each other. It has become really fun.

The one caveat – They do occasionally check email, pay bills on line or prepare church lessons. Just no screens for entertainment purposes.

5. Plan ahead. Get the games out. Check some great books out of the library. Stock up on pop corn. Know in your mind what you are going to say to your kids, how are you going to direct them, when they come and ask to watch a movie. Get prepared.

This family goes screen free in the summer months because they feel that in the winter you are shut in and it is more difficult to disengage from TV, videos, games etc. In the summer you can get out, walk, go swimming, go to the mountains, etc.


Courtney said that it is a bit hard the first few days because it is a serious transition, but then they settle right in. They have a lot of fun. They play together, they talk, and they laugh. She said that it is something that they really do all look forward to each year.

They feel more connected at the end of their Screen Free Month. It takes a while for screen time to become important to them again. The break feels good – after the first few days. : )

In fact Courtney shared this with me, “Last time we did it our kids wanted to continue for more than a month! And they hardly ever ask when it will be over.”

So why not consider it and give it a try. You just might find out how much your family likes to read, play games, hike or swim.

Who else out there goes screen free for a day, a week, a month. What is your experience?

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