Screen-Free Week begins on 2nd May through to 8th May 2022, and is designed to promote the idea of stepping away from your glowing screens and (re)discovering fun activities with family and friends.

I haven’t come across Screen-Free Week before, but the designated website has loads of ideas to get you started, including a downloadable ‘101 Screen-Free Activities’ sheet!

I’ve spoken before about my concerns over the over-use of glowing screens, particularly mobile ‘phones and social media, and genuinely feel that overuse of these devices causes detrimental distraction and loss of focus.

But of course, it would be far too easy to eschew screens and digital technology altogether. After all, this blog and all the others we all enjoy reading wouldn’t exist; many millions of people around the world would have felt even more isolated than they did during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic; and the many movements and petitions which have made so much difference to good causes around the world would have struggled to gain traction.

But I do still think a week celebrating adopting more screen-free activities is a great thing! Especially for families to reconnect and find things they enjoy doing together that are far more rewarding than sitting in separate rooms on various different glowing screens.

Here are a few resources I found that might help if you want to find out more about the impact of the digital revolution, and importantly, how we can use it better to our advantage.

Books…

I’m obviously going to start with books! My all-time favourite (and which I have waxed lyrical about on many occasions before) is Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport. Newport has been crowned the official anti-social medial guru in recent years, but despite what you might think, he is a Professor of Computer Science, so it isn’t in his best interests to be completely against the digital world. His book actually explores ways in which we can step back from our online worlds with the aim of discovering better ways of using it. This would be a great book to read this week, as is his Deep Work which explores how to better utilise our brains and focus more.

Secondly, I recently came across How To Break Up With Your Phone by Catherine Price. The title of the book makes the premise pretty obvious! But again, it isn’t preachy or suggesting that you completely forego the useful tool that your mobile ‘phone has become. Price instead suggests strategies for stepping away from the screen and thinking about what you want to get out of its use. This is a shorter read than the Newport one, and could be read in one sitting.

Watch…

Ok, I realise that it’s screen-free week so promoting something to watch is probably not really what I should be suggesting! But if you haven’t yet caught the much talked about Netflix show ‘The Social Dilemma’, then it might be a good way to kick off your week. Although it has some interesting interviews (and quite shocking facts) I wasn’t altogether a fan of the way it used actors to act out possible scenarios. Nevertheless, it would be a good thing to watch as a family, to spark conversations around social media use with teenagers in particular.

Do…

The whole premise of the screen-free week is to get out and do more activities! I’m not sure I can improve much on the screenfree.org websites ideas (including ‘Tree Bingo’!) but these are a few ideas I came up with:

Set yourself a reading challenge, maybe seeing how many books you can actually get through during the week when you disconnect. Try reading at lunchtimes and on your commute instead of scrolling, and reading in the evenings instead of staring at Netflix. I think you might be surprised at how quickly the words stack up!

Get out and do something for your community or local environment, such as a litter pick or volunteering at a local charity shop or arranging a collection of food items for the local foodbank. As well as keeping you busy and away from screens, you’ll be all aglow from the feeling of satisfaction this brings!

Rediscover the nature in your own area. How many times do we walk around our neighbourhoods without looking around? I walk to work every day, and at this time time of year, the blossom and magnolia trees are in full bloom and the birdsong in the mornings is amazing! But I have to confess that most days I am plugged into my earphones listening to Spotify and concentrating on not being late for work. Maybe a good challenge this week would be to try to unplug during your morning commute, noticing (whether on foot or on public transport) the changes the season is bringing.

Whatever we do this week, we are not going to change our growing dependence on screens, and I know that they support me in many areas of my life that I enjoy, such as listening to podcasts, tracking my steps every day and allowing me to keep in touch with family. But thinking about how best to use our devices is always a good thing.

I hope you manage to discover a few new or neglected activities this week that you might just carry on with longer term : )

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