I LOVE technology. I love computers and gadgets, and am quite honestly nearly drooling over having an iPhone (a little late in the game, I know, but drooling all the same.) I have a tendency to check my email about 138 times a day and can easily think of plenty of topics I want to look up on the internet. There is no denying it – I am happily plugged in, but should be screen free for a little while.

And yet, I know there is a strong coorelation between the time spent in front of a screen (computer, TV, ipad, etc. etc.) and a sedentary lifestyle in general. Despite the advantages of technology in all forms, our society in general is quickly losing touch with the need for fresh air. It’s just too easy to get sucked in to being plugged in.

Most of us here reading Seattle Backpackers Magazine are fully aware of the peacefulness and refreshment that comes with spending days or even weeks outdoors. We share a passion for fresh air (and hope to pass that on too!) We know that technology has its place (and can be used as an awesome tool), but know enough to turn our cell phones off on the trail, thank you very much!

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has put together a yearly event encouraging children, families, schools and communities to go screen free and make changes towards a more active and outdoor lifestyle. This year the event will happen from April 30 – May 6th.

Over at Tales of a Mountain Mama we are working hard to help spread the word about such a worthwhile cause. While we certainly believe technology is a wonderful and valuable resource, we also believe in turning off and letting nature be our greatest teacher, and especially impressing that on our children.

Because the blog obviously uses computers (and therefore screens) as the way to get the word out there, we decided to do our big event the week BEFORE (because we are turning off too and want to do everything we can to encourage others to follow that lead!)

Our goal is to gear up families (literally through a series of giveaways) to get outside because the lack of appropriate gear is often a major roadblock in adventures. If people aren’t comfortable, their enthusiasm dwindles quickly.

Let me be the first to say that shutting off screens for a week may nearly kill me. If I were going to be backpacking for that week, I wouldn’t think anything of it, but the temptation is right in front of me. The computer sits in our living room and our iPad and iPod Touch float around nearly on their own. I even use those “screens” to stay awake while nursing our 9 month old at night. It’s going to be TOUGH! But, it’s worth it for my kids and I can’t wait to see what sort of insights I come away with. There is incredible value in silence and simplicity that comes from unplugging.

I know that we also live in a society where computers are an integral (and very important) part of work and school. There is sometimes simply no way of getting around that. But in hopes of increasing your chances of succeeding, here are some ideas for going screen free that can be tailored to your own work, school and family needs if you just can’t go turn off for an entire week:
– Stay off the computer once you get home for the day.
– Cover up your TV with a sign that says “We are going screen free”
– Designate laptops/computers/tablets to a specific location for homework time (in an effort to keep the focus JUST on homework, and then turn them off when done.)
– Use smart phones JUST as a phone (is that possible??)
– Make a set time each day that is designated screen free time in your family (after dinner, before school/work in the morning, on weekends, etc.)
– If your work simply won’t allow you to turn off during the week, designate a day on the weekend.

The challenge is to use that new-found free time to spend more time outdoors and focused on your family or your own self-reflection.
– Go on an after-dinner short hike/walk instead of watching your favorite show.
– Start a family game of ball in the backyard (or street or field).
– Insist on your kids spending their day outdoors (and go out there with them to help foster creativity and show your support).
– Do a one-night quick backpacking or camping trip (even if you have to spend most of your time in the tent to stay dry in this spring weather)!
– Start a campfire and roast the first s’mores or hot dogs of the season.
– Embrace some alone-time!

Go screen free for a week?!?! We DARE you!

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