What to Say When People Ask...
Q: Why can’t we unplug for just one day?
- Turning off the screens for more than 3 days helps participants realise that life without screens is not impossible and can be more fun. A week-long turnoff allows adequate time to explore a wide range of screen-free activities and to develop more productive and rewarding habits. A one-day turnoff is easier but doesn’t give people enough of a break from the noise to reassess the role screens plays in their lives.
Q: Are all screens bad?
- One purpose of the project is to leave behind judgments about the quality of programming and focus instead on creating, discovering, building, participating and doing. Regardless of the quality of media, there is no denying that, for most young people today, time spent with screens overwhelms all other leisure activities and that too much screen time is harmful.
Q: Technology is here to stay. Why not just accept it and move on?
- Screens are here to stay, but that doesn’t mean that our young people need to spend upwards of six hours each day in front of a screen. Our young people will be healthier and happier if they spend less time with television, computer games, smart phones, and tablets. We can help them do that, and participating in the Be Screen Smart project is an important start.
Q: Instead of taking screens away from young people, don’t we need to teach young people media literacy?
- It’s not either/or. In fact, Be Screen Smart Project is an essential part of media literacy. After all, rule one in media literacy is knowing when to turn it off. Young people (and adults) simply can’t be truly “media literate” without stepping back from screens. Those who are most efficiently media literate have a variety of interests and experiences that they can bring to bear in analyzing and interpreting what they see and hear. Instead of pretending that endless hours in front of a screen promote media literacy, giving young people the chance to play actively, develop relationships, and learn to evaluate options will help them become more well-rounded people, better educated citizens, more alert consumers, and be far more media literate.
Q: Are you Technophobic?
- Are you kidding? Not at all. We understand the value of screen technology for work, entertainment, education and organising. In fact, our work is made possible by our online network and activities. But we know that screens are way too widespread in all of our lives, that screen time is habituating, and that excessive screen time is harmful, particularly for children and young people. Childhood obesity, poor school performance and attention problems are all linked to too much screen time. Cutting out screen time for a week is a way of beginning to help wean young people (and ourselves) off dependence on screens for stimulation and soothing. It’s also a way to provide opportunities for engaging in the pleasures of the real world.
Q: Do I need to turn off even my cell phone? What about using screens for work or homework?
- We’re absolutely not asking anyone to stop doing their job or their homework, or to stop talking on the phone. The goal of the Be Screen Smart project is to refrain from using screens for entertainment in order to enjoy the rest of the world. Screens are so interwoven in the fabric of our lives that sorting out what’s entertainment and what’s work or communication may be difficult. In fact, figuring out the role of screens in our lives is an important component of the Be Screen Smart project. But if talking, texting, or checking your work email is interfering with screen-free family time (including meals), then you may want to think carefully about how you’re using them.
What to Say When Parent’s Ask….
Q: My spouse won’t participate. Now what?
- Be Screen Smart project is meant to be fun. Encourage your spouse to give it a try, emphasise the short duration. Honestly, it is best if the Be Screen Smart project is a family activity. But if that’s not possible, encourage your spouse to respect the choices that you and your children are making by avoiding screen time in front of the children during the programme.
Q: I need some peace and quiet when I come home. How do I occupy the children while I fix dinner or do things around the house?
- Have children help with simple tasks, help with dinner or ask them to talk or read to you while you prepare dinner.
Q: Our neighbourhood is unsafe. Isn’t it better that young people sit in front of the screen at home rather than risk harm outside?
- It’s tragic that all children and young people do not have access to safe outdoor play areas. We should all be working to change that. Try joining with neighbours or a local community centre to develop safe outdoor activities for participating families. Meanwhile, there are lots of indoor activities that are fun, productive and screen-free. You can read, play board games, bake, do art projects and more.
Q: How can we best appeal to children &young people?
- Distribute materials on the environmental and social consequences of screens and have students debate opposing views. Use the lesson ideas to stimulate discussion on screen-time issues. Some teachers/youth leaders award extra credit to participating students who keep a journal and write about their experiences during the week. Contests and friendly competition can also motivate young people.