Poster designed by parent Christine Caballero

 It’s about choosing how we spend our time

By Alison Rooney

The organizers of next week’s planned “screen free week” are encountering enthusiasm for the notion of an entire week spent in activities not requiring a monitor or apps or chargers.  Seems most people (grown people, at least) welcome the thought of a little technology detox, downtime made easier by sharing this behavior adjustment with others in the community.

Presented not as a polemic or diatribe against technology, members of the Philipstown Screen-Free Week committee describe it more as a process, “The idea is to take a break from your current habits.  Step back, gain perspective and move forward, making healthier choices in the future,” says Melissa Angier, one of the organizers, who adds, “the idea isn’t that screens are bad in and of themselves.”

Part of a nationwide effort, the week, running from April 30 to May 6, has been spearheaded by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, a nonprofit based in Boston.  Formerly known as TV-Turnoff, the program encourages participants to “turn off the screen and turn on life. Instead of relying on screens for entertainment, participants read, daydream, explore, enjoy nature and enjoy spending time with family and friends.”

Back Row (L-R): Evan Tighe, Rebekah Tighe, Laura Lee Holmbo, Melissa Angier. Front Row (L-R): Annie McElroy, Carolyn Llewellyn, James Llewellyn, Margaret Parker, Lily Parker

Organizer Carolyn Llewellyn came across the program and mentioned it to friends, who were receptive.  Angier says that, dependent on them as she can sometimes be, “Screens are the worst part of my life.  In my house it’s the thing we argue about the most.”  Angier thinks many households have similar situations and often people feel alone in grappling with the challenges presented with overuse of electronic equipment.  The committee members (the others are Laura Lee Holmbo, Margaret Hundley Parker and Bekah Tighe) decided to present it to the community at large.  They say that the reception has been positive across the board — “it was like cutting through butter,” says Angier, “Everyone we talked to said that’s a great idea,” from pre-schools to Haldane and Garrison School, the local libraries (Butterfield is even going to have some type of covering go over their public monitors, which will have to be actively flipped over in order to access the screen — the hope is that it will eliminate the visual enticement) and many religious institutions as well as from the Philipstown merchants who were approached regarding donations to be used as enticements for screen-free activities.

Angier calls Haldane Elementary School Principal Brent Harrington “enthusiastic and helpful.”  Teachers at Haldane were not given any types of orders about not using screens, but were instead encouraged to try to divert the focus elsewhere if possible.  Elementary school students at Haldane, Garrison School and many local pre-schools received an announcement flyer giving an overall description and an invitation to participate.  All participation is completely voluntary, and if families choose to take part, they will then receive a participation packet, including four pledge cards, a calendar of events, a list of special offers for participants, a list of ideas for creative ways to use all the extra time together, and some words of cheerleading and guidance for processing the experience.

The pledge cards to be signed state something along the lines of “As a family, we’re going to attempt…”  There is one exemption from all this (perhaps unfortunately, for many): work; the focus is more on leisure and entertainment substitutions.  Participants can choose to write a journal throughout the week; suggestions include jotting down thoughts each day as to:

  • What did I do today that I don’t normally do?
  • What was my favorite part of today?
  • What screen activities do I miss?
  • What screen activities do I not miss?

The calendar of events includes the following:

Monday April 30, 4:30p.m. Join the staff of Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival at The Living Room, 103 Main St., free with pledge card.

Tuesday, May 1,5 p.m. Come to Foundry Park at 5p.m.  Bring a blanket and a picnic, enjoy live music from local musical group Laminated Menu, and soak up the spring evening view of The Hudson. 

Thursday May 3,4-6 p.m. Game Time. The First Presbyterian Church will be open to host families and friends.  Lots of games will be set up, there is a playground for young ones outside and a lawn to run around in the front. 

Friday May 4, 6-8 p.m. Haldane’s Eco-Night and Health Fair.  The timing of these two events with Screen Free Week “was just serendipity, but we are thrilled, as it gives participants more to choose from,” says Llewellyn. 

Saturday May 5, 1 p.m. Family yoga at Vikasa Studio, 15 Main St. in Cold Spring, free with pledge card.

All Week Long: 

The Butterfield Library will have board games set out.  Show your pledge card and get a free book from The Book Cellar

Enjoy a free topping on any purchase at Moo-Moos Creamery, 32 West St. (by the gazebo) in Cold Spring.

Hudson Valley Outfitters will customize a hike for your family if you show them your pledge card.

At the end of the week the committee suggests participants assess how to return to screens, and determine whether their week off has affected how they’ll use screens in the future.  Above all, the organizers don’t want to induce stress.  Quite the opposite, as they explain, “Don’t worry if you slip.  Screen-Free Week is about freeing ourselves to use technology without missing out on other important things in our lives.  It is about choosing how we spend our time.  We have the power to choose, and start this important process again, every moment of every day.”

Almost as a coda to all of the above, event organizer Carolyn Llewellyn told of a very recent conversation at her house:

This morning I’ve been on the computer doing stuff, and keep telling my almost-6-year-old (Elaine June Llewellyn) to hold on.  When I finally got off for a while I reminded her that next week I won’t be on the computer at all, and she won’t have to wait for me to get  off.   She said “I wish screen free week was every week!

Photo courtes of Screen Free Week Committee


Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Rooney was the arts editor for The Current since its founding in 2010 through April 2024. A playwright, she has lived in Cold Spring since 1999. She is a graduate of Binghamton University, where she majored in history. Location: Cold Spring. Languages: English. Area of Expertise: Arts