In producing this resource we talked to a lot of parents and children (including our own) about their experiences. Here are some of their reflections in which they share honestly about how they have got on; what has (or hasn't) worked for them. If you want to share your stories do send them to us.
We did ScreenLess from Monday to Thursday out of pure frustration. Other systems had not worked, our kids' persistence outweighed our commitment! Watching them come in, dump bags on the floor and vegging when we’re running around like headless chickens. So we implemented 'Cold Turkey' with immediate effect. Complete screen ban (computers; TV; Nintendos; PS3; Wii fit, phones, etc) Monday through to Thursday. The only exception was computers if needed for homework research in which case “you have half an hour.”
Advantages for us: Simple and easy to police. Removes anxiety over how much screens they’re watching and happy for them to veg out on a Friday night with Mario Carts; PS3 etc. Easier to get homework done, generally boys more cheery. Advantages for them: Doing other stuff eg, Monday pestering us about going swimming together. outside building dens in the woods; skateboarding and scootering. Finding new stuff. They even made paper models of Minecraft the current online game of choice.
A ScreenLess week has maded weekends more special, but ironically I think we now default less to screens at weekend as a result. It's definitely made a positive difference in our family and is worth trying."
Sal, mum of Scott (12) Callum (10)
I love the idea of ScreenLess week because it's about helping to change behaviour by promoting small changes. A bit like changing your eating habits; rather than going on a crash diet which won't last. This is about re-balance and healthy behaviour. My oldest daughter has a rule that when she goes out for a meal with her friends they all put their phones in the middle of the table and the first person to 'crack' and look at their phone throughout the evening has to pay for the drinks! It works and they make it fun." Rosie, mum of 2 older children
“This generation of parents is in totally uncharted parenting territory; parenting alongside the explosion of the internet and social media in particular. Many of us grew up with only 3 or 4 channels on the telly and a phone. We are really feeling our way and we don’t have any inbuilt sense of where the boundaries are – or should be – and in the meantime the internet floods in and fills up lots of the space that might otherwise be spent on… well shared family time?, music ? reading? All the things there used to be the time for.
We already know how powerful peers are for teenagers, and now they are there 24 hours! We have no idea yet what the consequences of these shifts are. At least Screenless week gives us an opportunity to test an alternative life- if you dare ! We have done 2 Screenless weeks with our 3 younger kids (aged 6, 8 and 10) and it’s been great, but I haven’t even dared broach the issue with my teenagers !” Jane mum of 5 kids.
The reason why we decided to do it was because, deep down, there was this nagging fear that we were taking the easy road and actually neglecting our kids by just letting them do what they wanted on screens whenever they wanted. It was hard to do it, and I’ve got to be honest in saying that it wasn’t without it’s conflict and tension, but we do want to really work at this. Better late than never.” Dad from South London
We had no option but to seriously cut back on screen-times simply because our kids were not doing homework. Although schools bang on about the internet being great for homework and motivating kids to learn, we just reached a point where that the temptation for them to play Temple Run, Angry Birds or browse aimlessly and chat on Facebook was too much of a distraction from what they should have been getting on with. However we tried to limit the social side it always took over the learning side. Although our kids were initially disappointed they have each admitted to us that they think it has helped them focus and get on with homework." Stephen C-D
We wanted to have less screen-time because I noticed our boys becoming more and more grumpy and irritable when I asked them to stop whatever they were doing online. In part this was simply because they hated having to stop midway through something (which I learnt was not helpful). However the conflict caused by this confrontation created a mood which could last for whole of the evening. Restricting the Playstation to just the weekends gives the kids something to look forward to, and they value the online time more. I think I've learnt as much as they have through trialing this. I'm sure we will fail in some ways but it's got to be worth a go.” Simon, Dad of 2 boys
The one thing which helped our family break our screen dependency was getting a dog. It sounds corny to say but she re-introduced all of us to the joy of getting out, walking, and playfulness. We’ve made new friends and even when the kids complain about having to take her out for a walk, they almost always come back with a smile on their face. They haven’t missed the screens at all.” Charlotte, mum of 3 (and a dog).
The thing which worked for us was having no screens during the schools holidays, including half-terms. My friends actually thought that we were mad and that this would be a disaster, but once my kids (aged 5, 8 and 10) got their heads around it they actually came to life and started enjoying playing together and making their own fun. My advice to others is not about when you do it but being consistent and going through the pain barrier. It wasn’t without its conflict because even my partner thought at first that I was being punitive, but once my kids were less grumpy he realised it was worth it and ended up supporting us doing it during holidays. Nowadays we don’t do it every holiday but will still have some screen-free period sometime during a holiday break.” Sarah mum of 3.
“One of the things I did for screen-less week was to remove the function of accessing e-mails on my smartphone for the weekend. At first it was really weird and I felt bereft and anxious that it was all piling up. I wouldn’t say that I was addicted but stopping for a few days helped me recognise that I derived a secret sense of importance in knowing that I was always ‘on call ‘ for work and indispensible. Having an out-of-office message on my e-mail helped and lots of my colleagues talked to me about my screenless experience. I have gone back to being able to access e-mails but I’m much more chilled about not having to respond to everything immediately and it has helped me think about making time for myself.”John, Executive within the Telecoms industry
I really regret having let my children get a Facebook account when they were still at primary school. To be honest I didn’t know you had to be over 13 to have an account and all their friends had an account. We now have screen-free from Monday – Thursday and it’s been really good for us. The best thing? Seeing my kids read a book before they go to bed each night.” Deborah, mum of 2 children
“I used to tell people, oh just read a book on your screen you can cross reference and bookmark and annotate as you read, but actually I’ve gone back to paper books, because however much I’m a techie I kept on getting distracted and lost my love of actually reading the written word. Seriously, we are analogue beings we need start and end points. I don’t want to multi-task when I read a book, I want to be lost in the words, in the narrative. I want the screen to liberate me not be my master.” Dad of 2 girls
I'm not sure we could do it for a whole ScreenLess week, but we do have a regular no screen day which works for us on Friday. Honestly it's the most peaceful day of the week in our home. To get the kids to learn to play independently and together again without a screen is magic. It also means we as parents have to stop what we are doing and plan our time with the kids, which isn't a bad thing." Graham Dad of 3 kids
"I'm massively excited to see the difference SLW will make on the families in our community. Disconnecting from the LCD would be a fantastic opportunity to rediscover the people around us. Bring it on!” Peter, Family worker from North London who is trialing SLW in his community.