The XX Factor

Skipping Screen-Free Week

Next week is Screen-Free Week (formerly known as TV Turnoff Week), as brought to you by the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood . I’ve known about this week for years, and we’ve never once observed it. For one thing, it invariably corresponds to our April school break, thus presenting two options: Either a) we’re already doing something so fun that screen-free isn’t really relevant or b) the always preachy CCFC is now suggesting that I go a solid, school-less week-a week in which I will still be holding to a regular work schedule, and my four children will be running wild around me, invariably losing their generally excellent ability to self-entertain and peacefully interact at approximately 5:00 daily, precisely the moment when I’m desperately trying to finish up the last bits of work for the day and start dinner-without once resorting to the highly addictive, all-child-inclusive form of entertainment that is  Phineas and Ferb .

Which leads me to the following counterintuitive (and admittedly somewhat self-serving) Suggestion: screen-free week is for kids who control their own screen time.

You’d think it would be just the opposite, right? After all, the younger a kid is, the less “screen time” is considered acceptable. But when it comes to younger kids, like mine, any parent who’s likely to go for “screen-free week” is probably already doling out the screen time with a pretty hesitant hand. Going cold turkey is far more about the parent in those cases than it is about the child.

Until a kid has some grasp of why screen-free week matters, I think the point of it is lost. And I suspect an understanding of that point probably correlates pretty strongly with becoming a person who might, of her own volition, come inside and sit down to the TV, the computer or a phone or video game. In our house, we’re not there yet. I support the idea of a “screen-free week,” but I support it as a family project, not a top-down imposition of a temporary new screen rule. So until I have a kid with his or her own screen, I think I’ll give screen-free week a guilt-free pass.

Photograph of toddler with smart phone by Getty Images/Thinkstock.