This Friday is the beginning of Global Day of Unplugging which runs from sundown on Friday, March 1 to sundown on Saturday, March 2. The initiative is meant to encourage social connection and empower people to take control of their tech habits. Whether it is 1 hour or 24 hours, at some point during the first weekend of March, people all over the world will step away from their screens and intentionally shift into an offline activity, an in-person interaction, a real-life gathering or simply a meaningful conversation about their relationship with technology.

We invite you and your family to be a part of this movement in whatever way feels right to you!

We all relied heavily on screens to get through each day during the pandemic, especially parents/caregivers working remotely while kids were at home. It makes sense that some of these screen-heavy habits are still with us. Global Day of Unplugging is a chance to take a step back and press reset on our tech habits. It’s a chance to connect with family and friends, get outside, and explore the community around you! In this day and age we rely on our phones for nearly everything and for that reason unplugging can require a little bit of prep in advance for many people.

One tip that Global Day of Unplugging shared was how to reduce the anxiety of not responding to texts immediately by setting up an auto-response. This will keep friends from worrying about you, and will keep you from worrying about whether you’re keeping a contact waiting and seeming like a jerk. Another way you can prep for a day of unplugging is to plan a loose itinerary with room for the spontaneity and surprise that a screen-free day will bring. That way you aren’t scrolling online trying to find things to do and then getting lost in online reviews or social media rabbit holes (trust us, we’ve all been there.)

Start planning your day of unplugging by checking out the Collaboration’s Family Calendar of local events. Get the ingredients you need to do that cooking project with your little one. Print out the below coloring sheet and get the crayons/markers/colored pencils ready! Here’s one more reminder: boredom is a good thing. Giving your child the time and space to be bored and to work past it to discover things to do is an extremely valuable skill.

Here at the Collaboration for Early Childhood, Michelle, our Family Engagement Partnership Coordinator has started a “screen cleanse” in her house. Here’s how it’s going so far:

My family is less than a week into our 30 day “screen cleanse”, meaning my 3 and 6 year old are taking a break from their tablets and TV and my husband and I are being more mindful of the use of our cell phones when they are home from preschool and first grade. Since 2024 began we’ve been using screens more than usual and have seen some new behaviors pop up in our kids, including an increase in fighting and not listening. Even after just a week, we’ve already seen some good results! They’re asking less for their screens and we’re discovering new, family-focused ways to fill the time we are all together. Our dining room table is filled with legos, our kitchen table has a 500 piece puzzle on it, and board games are everywhere. Last night, I played dinosaurs with my son in his room for 30 minutes and while normally I might be scrolling on my phone, I didn’t even know where my phone was.

 

Following your child’s lead in an activity by letting your child decide what activity to do and how you will do it together is what we call child-centered time in the Chicago Parent Program. The suggestion is to do this 15 minutes a day. What did I observe during our child-centered time? My son was smiling, he was excitedly sharing even more than normal dinosaur facts with me, and he was okay when I had to step out. I heard that the three most important times in your child’s day are the three minutes after they wake up, the three minutes after they come home from school, and the three minutes before they go to bed. Stepping back from our screens has helped our family be more fully present during these special times.

 

Next month, we will be taking a 900 mile road trip to visit family over Spring Break and you bet we will be using screens in the car. But I’m hopeful that my kids will continue to ask to play games, do puzzles, or read books more often and that the time we are giving them our full attention results in more positive behavior and more open communication when they are having a hard time finding ways to deal with frustration, particularly with each other. Thirty days may not be the right length for everyone, we may find it’s not the right length for us either, but giving it a try on Global Day of Unplugging might be a good experience for your family.

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