They say September is the new January; a time of year when the new season brings about new changes–often new school years (or the end of school years on the other side of the world) for the kids. This typically entails lots of ‘new’ in our schedules: school clothes, uniforms, books, classes, friends, routines and so much more. But did you know there’s a movement to make September screen-free/scroll-free?
In 2018, The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) in England launched the first annual Scroll-Free September. It ran from September 1 to September 30 and was the first-ever mass-participation social media-free month. In just a year, the movement has grown not just to include scrolling through social media platforms but to abstaining from screens for the entire month as best as work obligations will allow. In the States, this movement is referred to as Screen-Free September in that more parents are looking to the value in the entire family pulling back from screens.
The RSPH launched the Scroll-Free campaign in an effort to encourage people to take control of their social media lives and time back, after surveying citizens and finding the impact of social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter not necessarily having the best effects on people’s mental well-being and health.
Just like Dry January (a month to abstain from alcohol) and Stoptober (a month dedicated to pushing people to quit smoking) have grown in popularity and in need, We love the concept of Screen-Free September. It allows a month where we look not only to pull back from social media use, but pull our children (and ourselves) back from the ever-growing world of screens surrounding them everywhere they turn.
What are the benefits of Screen-Free September, you ask? Here are but a few:
1. You’ll have more time to take care of your health.
Think about it. What’s more comfortable? Sitting on the sofa indulging in Facebook or Instagram for a little bit or taking a brisk walk in your neighborhood and waving hello to neighbors you see as you walk? Now, think about which one is better for your health? C’mon, you know which one it is, and while we are NOT judging that indulging moment here and there, why not take this month to see how many MORE of those indulging moments could be spent indulging in the beauty of nature and relationships with your community? Imagine what that hour of Social Networking might look like in an exercise routine every day instead of scrolling through Insta and Facebook? Again, no judging if you use social media for work, as I do, but…be honest with yourself and see what is really for work and what could really be used elsewhere. Your heart will thank you.
2. You’ll have fewer things to compare in your life.
They say that comparison is the thief of joy, and isn’t that true? I consider myself to be a pretty transparent social media user, sharing how my son’s innocent actions made me realize I was being a bear of a Mama just as much as I share the awesome vacation pictures from Key West. But, let’s face it. Even transparent sharers filter what they ‘openly’ and honestly share. Why? Because even though we know it’s what we’re doing and we tell ourselves not to do it–scrolling through social media leads us to comparing our lives to every single other life we come across. We can’t help it; it’s a natural brain reaction to constantly self-critique and analyze, and while sometimes that analysis and criticism can motivate us to do better, other times? Other times it just drags us down and steals our joy. And we’re adults!
Now imagine how screens can do the very same thing to our children–especially our tweens and teens who are so vulnerable to the thoughts of others and typically walking around with such fragile self-esteems themselves. Think about how mandating a screen-free September can free your child from so many intrusive thoughts and pictures that bombard them regularly, even in ‘benign’ screen usage like filtered kids’ shows or ‘educational’ games. Try it and see if your child isn’t a different kid by the end of the month. AND if they aren’t super impressed with themselves that they can actually breathe without screens constantly available to them.
3. You’ll be happier!
Researchers found that those who limited (or cut) access to their social media accounts actually claimed they were happier, more relaxed, less stressed and more productive in their time and creativity. Shocker, right?
Not really, we know. But think about it–we’re so concerned about how much screen-time our children engage in, and for very good reasons, but do we think about what it does to us? Do we think that because we’re grownups and adulting that we’re immune? Because the reality is, we are grownups and we are adulting, but we’re still human and vulnerable and thrive on things that screens simply can’t give.
Again, we’re not judging the use of screens in general. We know that for work, and even for family connection (we’re a military family and we depend on screens and social media to stay in touch) screens are not only handy, but they’re also valuable to us.
We’re just suggesting that engaging in screen-free September might help you recognize where you really enjoy screen time and where it really is just bringing you down and robbing you of time you’d enjoy other ways.
4. You’ll sleep better!
Let’s just be real. I will. My guilty pleasure before I turn over to close my eyes and go to sleep at night is checking Facebook. I really do try to limit screen usage and exposure during the day because I am so dependent upon it for work, so I feel like I’m giving myself a little treat at the end of a long day.
But what I am really doing, and I’m guessing I am not alone, is killing sleep quality. Blue light from screens suppresses melatonin, and that affects our circadian rhythms. It makes it harder for us to fall and stay asleep.
And of course, in those few minutes of checking social media, an email or two might pop up and I address them. Which means that even though I’m supposed to be winding down, I’m actually just keeping my brain revved, and maybe even making a hot mess of anxiety for when I actually do fall asleep.
Which may mean that I wake up from that anxiety. Or, some text comes through and the sound wakes me. Or a calendar reminder wakes me. It’s inevitable and even outside of screen-free September, it’s wise to keep electronics and screens away from our reach when we are sleeping so we can get the best restorative sleep we should.
5. Personal Relationships Will Improve.
Imagine how much more personal and intimate your relationships with everyone could be if screens were not as big a part of life’s equations? Again, no judging if you do depend on screens/social media to maintain personal relationships in situations where you may not be able to be face-to-face; we understand that completely. But while Glennon may be stirring up some controversy with her ‘drop them at the door’ policy–the intentions of more connection and personal relationship are valid.
I love my kids’ friends so much that I want them to talk to each other at our house. So Abby and I have them check their phones at the door. Which we can do cause we’re the bosses of this house. They all act exasperated but seem interestingly relieved. Then, after a minute, they look at each other. And talk. And dance and laugh and stuff. And they remember that they are with their friends so there is no need to be anywhere else.
A post shared by Glennon Doyle (@glennondoyle) on Mar 4, 2019 at 1:27pm PST
Truly–humans connect more when they technologically connect less. And as mamas? Who really value connection with our families above all else? Imagine the relationship development that will occur with your family participating in Screen-free September. You couldn’t buy it if you tried.
6. You may eat less (and better)!
A recent study found that a third of Americans polled said they eat their meals with a cell phone nearby. This means that those people are more likely not to be paying attention to how much they’re eating, how quickly they’re eating, how often they’re eating or even what they’re eating, and that means they are more likely to be eating more. Or, they’re eating junk. Or both.
It happens innocently… no screens at the table. Except if it’s the boss. Or Grandma. Or the teacher. Which then turns into a slippery slope of finishing that show the kids were watching or heck, just wanting to have a warm meal in peace so you let the television entertain for a half an hour. Mama, we get it!
We just want you to be aware of how easy that slope slides and that rope ends up strangling us. And remember we’re the role models for our kiddos. When they see our commitment to Screen-Free September (and no screens at all during family times)? They’ll find the value in it. And that’ll become their value too.
So you’re in! You know it’s a good thing to take a detox in lots of different areas–our health, our relationships, our foods and our screen-usage. You’re all in for Screen-Free September but find yourself thinking, “What should we do?”
It kind of makes you feel giddy, doesn’t it? There’s something about knowing you’ll purposely carve your time out for something that doesn’t involve screens for a bit makes you feel like you’ve got lots of opportunities for productivity and relationship growth and you’re right. You do.
We polled our forum mamas and asked experts about ways that we can show our kiddos how much fun they can have sans screens. And while we know the obvious things like getting outside and really digging into nature–the fact of the matter is that not everyone can do that on a daily basis, nor can we sometimes (initially) convince our kids of how much fun that can be.
So, we’ve looked into screen-free September fun that we think may spill into the rest of the year because they’re great concepts and products. Here are some of our favorites.
There is nothing like a fun game that gets the whole family involved and around the table. Board and card games are so much more than that, these days, though! In addition to loads of fun, they do everything from work on hand-eye coordination, to social-emotional skills and everything in between. Here are some tried and true favorites
Do Arts And Crafts!
Y’Art is looking to make yarn crafts cool again and they do so with their awesome kits that let your kids create masterpieces with yarn. Working similarly to color by number kits, it really is Oops-proof and your kids have a great time working and developing sensory strengths.
The kids will also enjoy LatchKits. They’re plastic canvas kits that teach your children how to create art pieces with a hook and yarn…some call it a gateway for them to enjoy working with yarn and then wanting to learn to knit or crochet. And those are hobbies the whole family can do any time of the year as well.
One of the biggest benefits to going screen-free is watching your children’s (and your) imagination run wild. In this technical world that can be hard to do but more companies realize that there is lots of fun to be had screen-free too.
Interested in starting our kiddos out with a 3D printer but think all 3D printers have to use screens to create? This 3Doodler Start Pen is the only child-safe 3D pen out there (though we’re telling you that you might want to snag it for yourself when the kids are in bed! The pen nozzle and plastic can be safely touched and there are no–read that: NO–burn risks.
It’s a super cool tactile toy that allows your child’s imagination to go wherever it wants, creating 3D art that comes straight from their brains. It’s a perfect STEM toy in that it inspires them to design, plan and create–strengthening their spatial reasoning and visual perception skills and what we love most about it is that the filament is eco-friendly.
Dance and Sing!
Can we tell you about one of our new favorite finds? It was created by a dad who was exasperated with ‘losing’ his daughters to screens, even when it came to just wanting them to be able to play music. It’s a music player that your children can listen to from playlists that you’ve set up beforehand or even Spotify Premium. All they do is simply change the fun little characters on the Jooki player. You are in control of the content and the playlist, and you can change it whenever you want.
And, if you have Spotify Premium, you can link your account to the Jooki and your kids can play from Spotify…without ever needing a screen! Theo Maresaux is the CEO of MuuseLabs and created the Jooki out of necessity. He says kids should not need to access screens these days to be able to enjoy and listen to music they love, and honestly? Neither should adults. The Jooki comes with five Token Characters, so each family member can have his or her own playlist–that’s right, you TOO can access Spotify Premium (or any other playlist you’ve created) without ever needing a screen either.
Let’s face it…kids want to play with toys and we get it. Which is why we love finding toys that they can play with like many play with screen/electronics, minus the screen/electronics aspect.
That’s the concept behind Codi The Storytelling Robot. Pillar Learning founder Dayu Yang is a former mobile apps product manager who worried that today’s tech-driven children were missing out on the valuable lessons and education from classic PBS shows like Reading Rainbow and Mr. Rogers. He designed Codi to meet the developmental and socioemotional needs of children in a fun way that gives them a friend to grow with.
Codi has 130 classic stories that he tells your children, voiced by engaging actors–not some Autobot. Your child can hear story after story after story without even being able to read. Too often, we want to expose our children to books on top of books (and science tells us that’s a good thing!) but we simply can’t read to our children every second of the day.
Many moms then find audiobooks on tablets or apps that will ‘read’ stories, but Codi does the same MINUS the screen. And better, Codi engages your child’s imagination because she creates the story inside her own world. Codi also plays songs so your child can dance, and is great for younger kids with helping to create and stay engaged with routines like cleaning up or brushing their teeth. But the part parents love the best is that you and your child can send voice messages back and forth from wherever you are–military families particularly love Codi for this reason. And so do we!
Another toy we love and see kids spending good chunks of time playing is the Brio Vintage Table Top Arcade game. It’s ready right out of the box–you don’t even need to have batteries. Just like a full-sized arcade game, your child will take turn after turn after turn with the spring-loaded wooden launcher to get balls at the designated scoring areas. Not only does your child spend time working on focus, concentration and hand-eye coordination, but they also have fun doing it. And just like in arcades, you can take turns within the family to see who can score the highest. A fun Friday night in with some popcorn and good-old-fashioned competition.
Whatever you decide to do with your month, think about how you can cut back from screens throughout the rest of the year too. No, they’re not going away, and yes, we admit… there’s a lot of stuff we absolutely love about them.
Just in moderation, and not forsaking all the other great advantages of being screen-free.
Photo: Robert Kneschke/Shutterstock
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Lori Ennis is living the life wherever the Marine Corps sends her (husband)! Currently, she soaks up the sun in Jupiter, Florida, with her six-year-old mini-me, Luke, and their diva Golden Retriever, Dixie Belle. A self-confessed ‘hot mess’, Lori has degrees in Communications, Psychology and Education, and writes for various publications, including her own—Still Standing Magazine, a magazine for mothers who battle infertility and/or have lost children. But mostly, she spends each day grateful for the best title in the world — “Mama.” She is one happy and thankful gal.