We tell our kids that they are becoming addicted to their screens. They reply,"So are you, it's just that you call it work!"
ScreenLess Week has been designed by Stephen Carrick-Davies and Tim Mungeam who for the last few years have been running Online Citizenship workshops in primary and secondary schools for pupils, staff and parents. Whilst delivering these sessions, however, they have been struck again and again by the marked shift in the kind of things that parents, in particular, want to talk about. More and more parents express their anxiety about their children's compulsion to all things digital, with many admitting that ‘screen time’ is a significant source of tension in their household.
And it’s not only the kids. Parents concede that they themselves struggle, too, to switch themselves off. The temptation to check that Smartphone, send that email, update that status, is sometimes almost too strong to resist. As one parent explained when she e-mailed us,
I type in one room while one son is playing a game on the games console, another watching TV, my partner sending emails to a sports team. We are together but alone in our own worlds. I wouldn't mind but it's every night!"
The idea for ScreenLess week germinated from our desire to do something practical to address this issue. There was quite a bit of self-interest too as we ourselves were (and still are) keen to find practical ways to a) maintain a good screen-life equilibrium within our own families and b) to model positive screen behaviour ourselves.
ScreenLess Week offers a balanced approach. There is no desire to return to some kind of 'Swallows and Amazons' bygone childhood age– we fully embrace the fantastic power and potential of the Internet and the ‘sister’ technology that has emerged from it. Indeed we, ourselves, see and use the power of social media every day – for work and for pleasure. Instead, ScreenLess Week is simply a chance for those of us who love to inhabit the online world - but also recognise that sometimes we get the balance wrong - to reclaim our perspective.
So ScreenLess Week is not a top-down "expert advice" initiative, but rather a bottom-up, reflection. It’s an opportunity to use the very medium we are (constructively) criticising to share ideas and resources about ways that we all might be able to ‘recalibrate’ our own ‘screen-on’ / ‘screen-off’ ratio. We invite you to join the conversation about how it has, or hasn’t, worked for you.
We’re not the only people doing this. There is a growing band of thinkers beginning to recognise the impact that too much screen time is having on our children’s – and our - development. We list and link to some of these in our resources section.
Tim Mungeam and Stephen Carrick-Davies
Struggling Digital Dads!
PLEASE NOTE: This project has received no external funding and we have created this microsite and free resources with the generous advice and support of individuals and organisations including:
Diana Langdon for design of logo and branding see www.dianalangdon.com
Mary Louise Morris for help with school well-being resources.
Dr Richard Graham for giving advice on 'addiction debate'.
Dulwich College - for agreeing to pilot the project.