Turn the TV (and smartphone) off {Unplug & Play Giveaway}

Screen-Free Week is slated for May 5-11th this year. I kind of wish this had taken place during Lent, but perhaps it’s good to have another reason to cut back on screen-time.

I’ve decided to take the pledge and go screen free with the kids. No television, computer games, or iPad. I’m also going to limit checking my iPhone to phone calls and three times a day for texts and emails. The only time I’ll spend on the computer will be work-related (I do have a freelance deadline the week after Screen-Free Week).

Instead of computer time, we may try some of these screen-free ideas (the ones with an asterisk are courtesy of Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood):

If you’re looking for more screen-free ideas, check out Unplug & Play! 50 Games That Don’t Need Charging. Or enter the giveaway below by doing one or all of the following (leave a separate comment for each action you take to increase your chances of winning):

-Leave a comment with one of your favorite ways to engage in “unplugged” fun.

Liking my page on Facebook (if you already “like” my page, let me know in the comments section below)

Following me on Twitter (again, let me know if you’re already following me)

Contest ends May 4th. Winners will be announced after Screen-Free Week ends. I have two copies to give away. Good luck!

From the back-of-the-book’s tongue-in-cheek but eerily spot-on observation :

“When technology invaded the 21st century the world quickly went silent! People who once spoke to each other turned to their electronic devices as their loving companions. Of course, the love was one-sided, but it didn’t matter. The laughter of kids and adults communicating and playing fun games together rapidly became the sound of tapping on pads, pods, and phones. It was an epidemic that grew out of control.

Society was on the brink of total disaster…but the human raise wasn’t about to give up that easily! Pockets of rebel forces began to fight back! College students, teenagers, working men and women, moms and dads, families big and small gathered on weekends and weeknights, in cars, buses, and planes, basements and living rooms…and most of all…vacation destinations. They were armed with only their creativity, their humor, their ability to communicate and play games, good old-fashioned pens and paper…and this book.

For five minutes or five hours…they were unplugged.”

I’m a big advocate of instituting at least one unplugged day every week where you only use your phone to answer calls, where you don’t use the iPad, computer, video game consoles, or even television. Make it a family rule. Sundays often work well. You can go to church and designate the day a family day. Get creative on how to spend your time together. Play games like the ones shared in Unplug & Play (see an example of one game below). Host a pioneer night, and play card games by candlelight.

Go outside. This one is so important. Kids are spending less and less time just playing outside. When they are outside, it’s structured team sports or tennis lessons. Whatever happened to pick-up games of tag or just daydreaming in the grass? Being outdoors isn’t just good for their physical selves; you don’t burn too many calories typing with your thumbs. But by depriving our kids of time spent outdoors soaking up nature, we are shortchanging their spiritual selves. Nature encourages a sense of wonder so much more than the computer screen.

Once you get used to your regular unplugged day you may be able to start introducing more unplugged moments.

A few years ago I was feeling extremely overwhelmed trying to juggle motherhood with my writing life. As a writer nowadays, you’re expected to be regularly engaged in social media – from blogging to Twitter. My wise husband urged me to take a break from it all. He reminded me that at this stage of our lives, I no longer had to be the breadwinner and this was supposed to be an outlet for me – not a form of stress. So I gave up blogging for an entire summer. I also left my iPhone in the kitchen rather than bring it with me everywhere. I stopped checking email regularly and committed to checking it once – or two times at the most each day. I won’t lie. It was not easy at first. Just as it won’t be easy for your tween to not be allowed to log on or text during your unplugged day.

It took about 10 days of not being so engaged in blogging and the likes to experience a new sense of serenity. I no longer felt as fragmented like a chunk of me was over there, another part was over here, and my body (I think) was with my kids. I had become so entrenched in the online life that I was missing out on the real one right in front of me. Far too frequently my mind was elsewhere, and my heart was pulled in too many directions. This still happens sometimes. Most busy parents – whether they engage in social media or not – are going to sometimes feel like they’re over-leveraged, overextended, and on the verge of a total freak-out. For some parents, blogging or popping in on Facebook might offer them a sense of calm. For me, taking a step away from the online chatter has done that. Although I have started sporadically engaging in blogging and social media again, I’ve really learned temperance and also have discovered the fruits of not being online so much.

My whole family has benefited from this. Internet addiction is a real problem. We need to show our kids that the inbox can wait, that true friends don’t need you to update your Facebook page. It’s prideful of us and our children if we think that not immediately responding to emails, texts, tweets, etc. will leave a void in others’ lives.

We grow spiritually when we learn to ripen the fruit of detachment.

As St. Thomas Aquinas said,

“Between the spirit and the flesh there is continual combat. Now, if you wish the spirit to win, you must assist it by prayer and resist the flesh by such means as fasting.”

You will all benefit from occasional unplugged days and technology fasts.

Here’s an example of a simple game included in Unplug & Play that requires only a pen and paper :

Only One

Each player takes turns coming up with a category. The object of the game is to match all three of your popular, well-known, or common items AND all three of your unpopular or uncommon items. However, you ONLY get points for each popular item if EVERYONE but ONE person has it….AND you ONLY get points for each unpopular item if ONLY ONE other person has it.

Example: Player 1 selects “Common Professions.” His common list is doctor, lawyer, and teacher. His uncommon list is engineer, chef, and fitness instructor. If all but one person has teacher, Player 1 and all of the other players who said teacher earn 50 points. If everyone but two people had lawyer, nobody gets anything for lawyer. If everyone had doctor, nobody gets anything for doctor. For the uncommon list. If only one other person had engineer on his uncomong list, then Player 1 and that other player each get 50 points for engineer. If more than one other person inaddition to player 1 had chef, then nobody gets points for chef, and if nobody had fitness instructor, then Player 1 gets nothing for that selection. Don’t make your uncommon or unpopular selections too uncommon or unpopular or you risk not matching them with anyone and getting a goose egg for that round! Another person selects a new category for round 1.

Enter to win Unplug & Play below. Turn off those televisions (and iPads and iPhones), and have fun!


Enter the Conversation...

16 Responses to “Turn the TV (and smartphone) off {Unplug & Play Giveaway}”
  1. Misty says:

    Have you read Hands Free Mama? I loved it and have since deactivated FB and am working on staying off my phone during the day. We did a serious family screen intervention when school resumed and now limit just-for-fun screen times to weekends. (During the week we generally don’t watch TV unless we are watching as a family.) The main reason we are successful at any of this is because we are so busy – school all day and sports every night – so don’t think I am saying we are awesome. However, we have sensed a major change – less bickering. When they aren’t fighting over the X-box or the remote there is little reason to fight. Thanks for the extra ideas and added challenge to go the weekend screen free as well.

  2. Mary says:

    Hey Kate! I have liked your fb page,follow you now on Twitter and my fave unplugged activity really is (is semi-unplugged allowed?!)It is listening to our fave Christian radio station on spirit radio or my hubby’s cd of his own music and my toddler and I just dancing to our heart’s content together. When “daddy” (ie hubby) isn’t busy, our favourite activity is to dance to his “live” playing of the guitar. We even found a plastic toy guitar for my toddler to use so she can copy daddy too. :)

  3. Allison says:

    Inspired by this post, I notified my girls that we would be seriously limiting screen time, especially on school night, and we would start using our brains to entertain ourselves for a change. And then I promptly ran to Michael’s to stock up on craft supplies so I didn’t have to hear “we’re bored, there’s nothing to do!” Our first day we made masquerade masks. We painted them different colors and then decorated them with glitter and feathers. Annalise even wore hers to soccer practice that night, and she also made me email a picture to her teacher. Her teacher then put the picture on the white board the next day at school! Annalise was very proud! So far, they have enjoyed the creative time. Hopefully I can keep up the momentum because as Annalise states, “I’m not worried about losing screen time because you will probably forget about this by May.” She’s got me figured out already.

    If I were on facebook and Twitter, I would totally follow you, but I just get to see you on Instagram for now!

  4. Kate Wicker says:

    Allison – Instagram entry

  5. marian boll says:

    I take my granddaughters outside, across the street to the park where they play as we did when I was a kid!!!!

  6. We cut cable after the promo time ended and then just never resubscribed. Now I have (mostly) forgotten what we are missing. The kids do videos sometimes and my husband and I watch the occassional movie but it takes more planning. I mostly like the quiet evenings after the crazy wonderful days with the kids.

    I am already a fb friend and love your posts.:-)

  7. Kate Wicker says:

    Misty – Twitter

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