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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 Lovy Family of West Bloomfield

Jen, Mother
Noah, Son, 9
Evan, Son, 8
Jessica, Daughter, 6
Jon, Father

Digital profile

Jen admits to checking Facebook frequently, while Jon, a doctor, likes to unwind in front of the TV after a busy day. He sometimes plays iPad games or researches his hobbies online.

Noah got an iPod for his 7th birthday, which his parents use to incentivise good behavior and punish bad behavior. He's supposed to stay within an hour of screen time per day, two on weekends – but this doesn't include watching a nightly show with dad. He is constantly negotiating for extra screen time.

Noah was recently upset because he was the only child at a sleepover without an electronic device.

Evan asks for the iPod almost every morning when he wakes up. He is autistic, and for him technology has some positive effects – giving him a common interest with his peers and distracting him at mealtimes, so he will eat more.

Jessica is least dependent on media, but is following her brother's lead and playing tablet games more and more frequently.

Initial reaction

There was nervous energy throughout the house the day before the challenge began. Jen actually had nightmares, even though she was eager to participate.

Biggest challenge

Jen missed being able to use electronics as a babysitter. Both Jen and Jon exercised less because they normally watch TV or the iPad during workouts. Jessica missed her favorite TV shows, Noah missed playing Roblox and Evan missed his iPad.

Looking back

Finding alternatives to technology went more smoothly than the Lovys thought, and they spent more time together as a family. The kids were eager to get their hands on new art supplies bought specifically for the challenge and made scrapbooks, painted canvases and baked cookies.

The siblings actually learned to get along better and play cooperatively instead of abandoning games for technology if a disagreement arose.

Jen says, "When we've cut back on it, they really don't miss it."

Going forward

The Lovy family plans to have unplugged days on a regular basis and technology-free weekends once a month. Jen has deleted Facebook from her smartphone.

"The key for parents is not to cave into a child's request to watch TV or go on the computer," Jen says. "They really can survive without it, and they will not die of boredom. It's been really fun to see creativity creep back into our house."

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