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Families Unplug for One Week in Screen-Free Challenge

Three local families forgo their tablets, TVs, computers and smartphones for one week – one long week. Find out how they fared – and whether you could go screen-free like them.

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The Martin Family of Northville

Bruce, Father
Alexander, Son, 9
Amy, Mother
Claire, Daughter, 10

Digital profile

Claire's screen time has been limited, but she recently got an iPad and has become hooked on Instagram. Amy worries it may affect her daughter's grades. Alexander loves his Xbox and joins his cousins in multiplayer games, communicating with them through headphones as they play. The kids also have a Surface tablet. The Martins recently installed a second TV in their home and watch shows together a couple times a week. Amy enjoys Facebook and entering online contests – and takes her smartphone with her everywhere. Bruce, who owns an insurance agency, stays plugged in at all times for his customers.

Initial reaction

The night before the challenge, the Martins talked about their feelings and plans for the week ahead. The challenge was met with the most protest by Alex, who tried to get out of it.

Biggest challenge

From Day One, the challenge was easier than expected.

The Martins read, played the Othello board game and baked together. Family dinnertime stretched out longer and they chatted more.

Bruce taught Alex to play chess instead of bonding over their usual TV shows.

The kids played in the snow, constructed a fort and had friends over to play.

Looking back

When the kids knew video games weren't an option they didn't ask a single time, finding other things to do. The downside?

"My house was trashed," Amy says. "I was stepping on Legos for a week."

Overall, Amy says she felt more in the moment because she wasn't compelled to constantly check her email.

"I noticed I am not 'needed' as much as electronics make me feel like I am," Amy says. "You can give people your full energy."

Amy closed her computer and put it away in a drawer, so she wasn't tempted to check emails. She left her smartphone at home while doing errands.

Bruce turned off his phone in the evening and realized much of his work could wait.

The Martins discovered they can enjoy family time in other ways.

Going forward

The Martins had a family meeting about how to use the knowledge gained during the challenge.

Bruce wants to keep screen-free dinners, and Amy vows to limit her own online engagement.

“I am going to continue to work on being present with my family without distractions,” Amy says.

They hope their children will make better decisions on their own when it comes to using media.

“You can always add more technology to your family,” Amy says. “It’s harder to take away.”

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