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How One Family Went Media-Free for an Entire Day

Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson


A mother I know – she has children ages 10 and 5 – announced her intention to do a day-long “screen fast” this past Saturday. By this she meant no screens – no television, no computers, no game systems, no cell phones, no tablets – for anyone in the household from morning to bedtime. This included the two kids and both parents.

Just to be clear, the weather was not super in her town that day. And she is an entrepreneur while her husband works in software development. Both are used to being online or connected as part of their work responsibilities pretty much round the clock.  So a family screen-fast was not a frivolous undertaking. This was something serious.

This mother told me why she decided it was time to do something drastic. The previous weekend she’d noticed how much time everyone was glued to one screen or another. If the kids weren’t playing soccer or in the car getting to soccer they were screened-in. And the adults were just as distracted. This mother said she noticed that both she and her hubby would surface when spoken to, pulling themselves away from their handhelds, eyes unfocused, minds clearly somewhere else, to mumble an answer… and then change their answers in a minute or two when their brains caught up with the questions.

Does this sound familiar? Is this how your family too spends a lot of its free time together?

The mother also said she noticed that by the end of the weekend, everyone was crabby and irritable but in too much of a funk to do anything about it. The best way to keep people from quarreling was to park them all in front of a DVD in the evening. More of what had aggravated everyone already…. It didn’t feel right. She knew something had to change.

On screen-free Saturday, there were no screens in use. The family baked, played board games, took a walk, cleaned the family room, and read.  They did things together and on their own. They just didn’t turn on anything with a screen.

The result? Calm, happy children and adults. A reconnected family.

Could your family go cold-turkey on media? How would this work?

  1. Get the adults on board first. A no-media day won’t work if the grown-ups don’t play along.
  2. Tell the kids at least one day ahead of time about the screen-fast, more if someone might have homework to do that requires a computer. Not only is fair warning a courtesy but fair warning means that people can complete key screen activities in time for the fast.
  3. No excuses and no cheating. This might mean that screens are unplugged and the power cords disconnected from computers and game systems. Hide the remotes. Squirrel away the handhelds. Get the kids to help with securing screen-based machines so no one is tempted.
  4. Have things planned to do. This is a good day to clean out the garage, make cookies, and play games. It’s a good day to go for a hike, read, write, and do art. Again, get the kids to think of things to do and lay in supplies.
  5. Stay cheerful. You might be surprised that you experience more withdrawal than your children do. If you or your children get to feeling down, don’t just sit there, do something. Being busy will improve your mood.
  6. Congratulate everyone at the end. This might be a good night to eat out or have a fancy dessert. Just don’t eat in front of the TV!
  7. And then agree on the next challenge. When will the next screen-free day be? Could you stretch it to two days? An entire week? Keep a media-free day in the back of your mind as you plan your children’s winter break from school. Slotting this early in the vacation time gives you a chance to do it again before school resumes.

A media-fast is not something to do every day. But once, or once in a while, makes a good break and forces everyone out of the mental rut they may be in. It’s good to know that one can survive an entire day with no screens.

It can even be fun!



© 2013, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Dr. Anderson will be in Atlanta, GA on December 10 and 11, speaking at the National Head Start Association’s Parent Conference. Email her at [email protected] for details or to set up a presentation to your group in the Atlanta area on one of those dates.

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Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson

Dr. Patricia Anderson is a nationally acclaimed educational psychologist and the author of “Parenting: A Field Guide.” Dr. Anderson is on the Early Childhood faculty at Walden University and she is a Contributing Editor for Advantage4Parents.