I was sitting at a coffee shop yesterday enjoying a café Americano with one of my favorite friends. We were catching up, being stupid, making each other laugh, and absolutely we were people watching, when all of the sudden she hit me over the head with this doozy:
“My school is doing screen-free week,” she said with ease.
“Screen-free week?” I said in my sassy friend voice. How could it be possible to go a week without phones, iPads, and computers at a school? Jeesh! My friend is a teacher, you might have guessed.
She explained, “We’ve all committed to take a break from digital entertainment during Screen-Free Week. We’ll use iPads and stuff for educational purposes at school, but when we get home we won’t use them during family time and stuff.”
I admit my aforementioned sassy-friend voice was a defense mechanism. I was staring at both of our computers, two iPads, and two iPhones – a grand total of 6 screens sitting there next to our two drinks. This just didn’t seem like something I could do or would want to do (and ewww that guy just took his coffee into the bathroom). We all use devices, all the time – it’s normal. Everyone is okay with this. Which is exactly the point!
We’ve become completely used to and totally okay with being utterly dependent on our digital devices. They take away from our family time, they keep us from having conversations, and they leave us very disengaged with life around us. I have to confess, I haven’t stopped thinking about this whole screen-free challenge. My friend’s school gets it. They get that they have the opportunity to remind families that we can do better for ourselves and for the students we influence.
There’s a great list of digital-time facts that share the benefits of going screen-free on the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood website:
Children who spend less time with screens:
- Do better in school
- Spend more time with their families
- Sleep longer
- Eat better
- Get more exercise
Those five things alone would really make a huge difference in my own life and in the life of the teens I work with. Maybe in your youth ministry you’ve spent time warning teens about the dangers of social media, or maybe you’ve had parent training sessions to make them aware of what’s going on in the digital world of teens. Those are good things for sure, but it might be time for a different approach. Instead of sharing the downfalls of social media we can share the benefits of going screen-free. Maybe like my friend’s school, you’re ready to take the lead by taking on the challenge to spend less time googling, posting, texting, and binge-watching, and more time with family, friends, and God.
Screen-Free Week is a real thing celebrated May 2 – May 8, but this is a challenge you can do with your youth ministry families any time. Check out ScreenFree.org if you’re ready to dive in.
Theresa’s personal Screen-Free Week Goals:
- Put the smart phone away after 6 pm
- Take a vacation from social media
- Spend time reading from a paper copy of the Bible
- Have my son teach me something new
- Share 5 family meals at the table
- Do something spontaneous with the family
How do you challenge digital dependency?
Thanks for loving students,