Can You Go Screenfree?

Are you up for a challenge?

Join thousands of other families who want to reconnect by going screen free for the week of May 5 – 11, 2014.


Kristen Stuppy, MD

What does screen free mean? To put it simply: do not use anything with a screen unless it is directly related to work or school. Televisions, computers, smart phones and other screens are all a part of our world, but they can overtake our lives. By consciously avoiding non-essential screen time, we can reconnect with our family and friends and even ourselves.

Does going screen free for a week sound impossible?

For many people screens are an essential part of our lives. We use online calendars so we can remember our daily schedule and share it with family. We use online resources to make purchases, research a topic, conduct business and more. Less essentially we use screens to keep up with friends or to share what we’re up to. We play games. We watch movies and television shows. We use screens as a cheap babysitter. It is a huge recreational pastime. It’s easy and inexpensive.

But there are many costs to this.

  • Do your kids complain that you’re always on your phone or computer? Maybe they don’t verbalize it but they might show it with disruptive behaviors. And remember you’re their role model. They will do as you do. But they’d rather spend time with you. Even the teens who deny it.
  • Do your children throw a fit when you tell them to turn the screen off? This can be a sign of addiction, or at least poor self-control. Aggressive tendencies are often exacerbated by screen time.
  • Children lose time outdoors and in other active and creative play because they’d prefer to watch television or play a video game. Screen time is directly correlated with obesity, behavior issues, and sleep problems. Active play and social interactions can help with each of these problems.
  • Infants and children learn best through human interactions and exploration, yet a screen sometimes mesmerizes them for hours at a time. Some of us feel comforted that our kids are learning by playing some of these games or watching certain “educational” programs, but this is often not the case. Studies do not show beneficial learning, especially in young children, with screen interactions. In many cases time spent on these games and programs is detrimental to their development.
  • The typical school aged child has more screen time than ANY other activity except sleep!

Just think of all the free time you will make by turning off the screens.

Who doesn’t want more time each day? Because most of us spend over 2 hours a day with recreational screen time, we can capture that time to play a game with our kids, take a walk, read a book, write poetry, do a craft project, clean out the garage, garden… the list goes on. Let your kids do things and experience life instead of letting them watch or play with something someone else created for them. And it’s okay to just spend time together talking. Sometimes it’s those simple times that become our most special memories.

Unplug. Start with just one week. See where it takes you!


101 Screen Free Activities

Written by Kristen Stuppy, MD, private practice pediatrician in Overland Park, KS

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