Changing just one habit for Screen-Free Week

Changing just one habit for Screen-Free Week

The urge had become completely Pavlovian.

Whenever I stopped at a red light while driving, I’d check my phone for messages. Stop at a red light, check for messages; stop; check. It was ingrained, unsafe, and annoyingly compelling and unstoppable. Even with my notifications off ’d keep my phone nearby, compulsively checking for no reason whatsoever.

I should have known better, of course, given my professional work with Screen-Free Week 2018 and 2019 and the Screen Time Action Network. But even those of us deep in the fight for safe, humane tech for children rely on our digital tech to help us advance our mission and advocacy.

That means we are no less prone to habituated tech habits and digital tech overuse (or unsafe use), especially considering that our tech devices are so deviously designed to feel impossible to put down.

So in spring 2022, I asked myself: could I use Screen-Free Week this year to spark lasting change in my relationship with my own devices?

For the two years I worked to promote Screen-Free Week, I urged families, schools, and communities to consider their past year of digital tech use as inspiration for how they’d celebrate the week, then use the week as inspiration for a changed relationship the rest of the year. But could one Screen-Free Week really make a difference in my own life?

Let me quell the doubters and naysayers by saying that yes, it can be absolutely habit changing.

Last Screen-Free Week I made that one simple resolution not to check my phone at red lights. That was it. I kept my phone in my purse and kept the purse zipped and inaccessible. It wasn’t easy, but I knew that putting temptation out of reach is an important habit-changing tool.

After one week of a severed “red light-check phone” connection thanks to Screen-Free Week, the urge had begun to lift. I decided to continue the practice as I didn’t want to give up on my progress.

Months later, I’ve stuck to this new habit. If I feel strongly that I need to check my phone (like when I’m waiting for an important message), I will pull to the side of the road and check. I also keep a pad of paper and pen near me to jot down ideas that pop into my mind (yes, I do this at red lights, but it is not an ingrained, habituated response, so I allow myself this traffic light indulgence).

I can check my phone before I begin a drive and after I’ve parked at the end, but not during the drive itself. I replaced one terrible tech habit with a digital wellness practice that fosters mindfulness and allows me to enjoy the journey more.

So yes, Screen-Free Week is about a week of gratitude, fun, and community. But I’m serious when I say that if you’re lucky, it may rock your year as well!

Rinny Yourman, Esq., digital wellness educator, parent educator, blogger, and mom to two teens, volunteered and has worked with Screen-Free Week and the Screen Time Action Network at Fairplay since 2018.


A Parent’s Perspective on Screen-Free Week

A Parent’s Perspective on Screen-Free Week

As much as we’d love to think our role as parents is to protect our kids from screen time, chances are we might need some protecting, too!

Even the most tech-savvy of us can be sucked into our devices, (SPOILER ALERT! They were designed to do that.) It doesn’t help that our work and personal lives increasingly intersect online and work/life balance has become less of a goal and more of a fairy tale.

Screen-Free Week can help parents and caregivers, too, as the following guest post from past participant Amanda Gilbert explains.

Screen Free week is always a great reset for our family. It helps us prioritize what really matters. 

In our family, it is probably most beneficial for Mom and Dad. With our phones—that can do so much more than simply contact people—constantly on us, it is so easy to be sucked into the screen. Social media, shopping, movies and more grab our attention so readily. 

During Screen-Free Week my husband and I commit to using our phones as phones only. We call and text with them, but no Facebook, Tiktok, or other media. I even try to go to the computer for email during that week so my phone is just a phone. 

Every year this leads us to realize just how much we use our phones for media. We realize how often our heads are down and not focused on our children. We pledge to do better and we do better for a while, but then life catches up and we slip into old habits. Screen-Free Week gives us a chance to reset every year.  

For the kids, it’s not too challenging. During the year, they only watch an hour of shows a day and occasional weekend tablet use. But they whine the first day and plead the second. By day three they are ready to find new things to replace show time. 

Last year we built a fort, read lots more books, and played outside more. The kids became excited to come up with their own activities to replace our typical screen time. I’m looking forward to seeing what creative ideas they come up with this year in lieu of screen time!

Thanks for your story, Amanda!

Amanda’s thoughts are part of our “Share Your Screen-Free Story” campaign. If you’ve participated in Screen-Free week in the past and want to share your insights, please contact

We’ll take your story however you’d like to share it—write it out, create a poem, sing a song, film a video, share art inspired by the experience. The choice is yours!

Photo courtesy of Luemen Rutkowski via Unplash


Meet Our New Screen-Free Week Coordinator

Meet Our New Screen-Free Week Coordinator

Hi, my name is Jen, and I’d like to find more joy in my life.

Care to join me? 

For more than 25 years I’ve been working in marketing, communications, and events, promoting all sorts of stuff to all sorts of audiences.

Most of this work happened during the digital revolution, which meant I was an early adopter and a promoter of countless digital platforms and tools. I trained CEOs to tweet, created endless piles of online content, and helped ordinary people become “influencers,” (my apologies).

By 2016, I noticed that many of these tools were starting to cause overt harm, compromising personal data, sowing societal division, increasing social inequities, monopolizing children’s time, fracturing attention-spans, and flooding the marketplace with some flat-out garbage information.

This sucked a lot of joy out of my life.

So, I made a change and shifted my focus to digital wellness consulting and eventually landed this unicorn gig where I get to promote…

  •     Opportunities for uninterrupted play and creativity
  •     Space for daydreaming and imagination
  •     Precious moments of social connection
  •     Lazy hours filled with deep rest and relaxation

They’re all things you can find during this year’s Screen-Free Week, an opportunity for you, your family, your co-workers, or your community to turn down the noise in your lives and find some room to breathe, think, and sit in the driver’s seat of your own life.

And that, my friend, is an idea that brings me oodles of joy.

Participate in this year’s Screen-Free Week however you like…

  •     Maybe your family goes a week without devices at the dinner table
  •     Maybe you have a roommate hide your gaming console for a few days
  •     Maybe you go for a walk every morning instead of scrolling the latest headlines
  •     Maybe you give up ALL your entertainment screens and take the big plunge for the whole week.

However it looks for you, however long it lasts, there are no wrong choices when designing your week. For me, it’ll likely involve banning Netflix binges and Buzzfeed quizzes. (Which means I’ll sadly never know which fruit matches my personality type!)

What else can I tell you about me?

I read an enormous amount. I love animals. I’m a mom. I live in Minnesota. (Yes, in January this is NO FUN. However, the summer here is truly magical. Everyone runs away “to the lake,” which is not terribly impressive considering we have 10,000 of them). Lastly, I’m pumped to go on this journey with you.

If you’ve read to the end, first know that this means I automatically like you. (Remember, reading is my jam!) Secondly, consider this post as a sign from the universe to join us May 1-7 for the 2023 Screen-Free Week!