Although I’m a winter lover myself, I also enjoy spring. One of my favorite parts of spring is the returned enthusiasm others have for spending time outside. Unlike in the depths of winter, when I have a hard time finding friends to volunteer to do outdoor activities with me, the warm sunshine of spring calls to folks to break away from their phones, computers, TVs, tablets, and other screens and reconnect with the elements of the outdoors.
The Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood puts on one of our favorite spring challenges to help encourage folks to spend time disconnected from devices – Screen-Free Week! As their website states, “Screen-Free Week is an annual invitation to play, explore, and rediscover the joys of life beyond ad-supported screens.” From April 29th to May 5th, millions of people from around the world will join the challenge to unplug and leave their devices behind as they reconnect with friends and family, favorite pastimes, and the great outdoors.
In order to encourage participation last year, we wrote a blog about the prevalence of screens in our lives (children and adults!) and the negative impacts they can have on our well being, including a link to childhood obesity, eye development and vision issues, lack of sleep, shorter attention spans, aggression/other behavior problems, and declining social skills. It also addresses how to set a “media plan” for your family and includes guiding resources.
Many Happy Dancing Turtle employees and their families chose to participate in last year’s Screen-Free Week and felt the multitude of benefits first hand. Michelle wrote a blog sharing her family’s experience participating in the challenge. She reflects on the quality time spent as a family as well as the time she had to complete things on her to-do list or to get lost in a good book after her kiddos were in bed. The rest of the staff shared their favorite no screen activities throughout the week, covering everything from bike riding and dog walking to coloring and hosting board game nights. Even my husband, who’s a serious offender when it comes to after work TV-binging, clicked off for the week and was pleasantly surprised with the amount of time he had to spend on long-discussed projects, spontaneous bike rides and kayaks, and diminishing his “to-read” pile that has been growing for months. He said he went to bed feeling better about what he had accomplished each day and slept much better after a day of fun activities. Overall, I think it’s safe to say all of us who participated enjoyed the time we spent enjoying hobbies long forgotten, time relaxing with family and friends, and activities out in nature.
“Even though it’s about turning off screens, Screen-Free Week isn’t about going without – it’s about what you can get!” – Screen-FreeWeek.org
As we head into next week’s challenge, we also urge you to encourage any children in your life to participate! Screen-Free Week is especially important for children. Not only does it reduce the aforementioned negative impacts children experience as a result of too much screen time, but it gives them so many benefits!
“A healthy childhood depends on a surprising thing: play! Through creative play, kids explore their physical world, build their curiosity, and expand their imaginations. But often, time spent on ad-supported screens displaces the kind of creative play kids need to thrive…. Not only does Screen-Free Week allow people to enjoy time away from news feeds, targeted ads, and autoplay videos, but it gives families and communities an opportunity to come together and connect with each other.” – Screen-FreeWeek.org
Research from the University of Copenhagen indicates that overuse of screen time can induce stress and addiction in children, not to mention it “drains [our] cognitive resources” and reduces our divergent thinking, which is linked to creativity, adaptability, and sense of self-identity! The researchers argue that time in nature acts as “restoration period,” where our mind is allowed to wander and our cognitive functions can recharge.
Happy Dancing Turtle is proud of their programs that get kids back outdoors & into nature!
Not only do our youth gain mental and physical benefits of being active outdoors, but as a society, we also gain from kids spending time outside. The University of British Columbia found that children who spend time playing outdoors in their youth are more likely to protect nature as adults. Now that is something we could use more of in the future. Here at Happy Dancing Turtle, we’re dedicated to promoting sustainable living and growing stewards of the earth for our future. So help us do that – let your kids (and yourself!) get down and dirty and have fun in nature this Screen-Free Week!