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Unplug and Recharge With Screen-Free Fun at the Library

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International Screen-Free Week (May 6 – 12, 2024) is wrapping up tomorrow and it seems like a good opportunity to talk about ways libraries and library workers can support children and their parents and caregivers in this very important aspect of media literacy – developing habits around media use that support healthy development and wellbeing.   

Screen-Free Week is an annual celebration in May that encourages children to turn off screens in order to connect with family, friends, nature, and their own creativity. The organizing nonprofit, Fairplay has a wealth of resources for libraries, schools and communities who wish to participate, including organizing kids, pledges, handouts, and a list of fun screen-free activity ideas (I shared these at storytime this week).  

Conversations around screen time can be fraught with worry and judgment, so I love any opportunity to celebrate the joy of unplugging and share resources without shaming parents and caregivers. Let’s face it, going completely screen free is not realistic for most of us, but making screen-free time something fun for kids to look forward to is.       

Screen-free is our super power!

a toddler wearing a red shirt waits excitedly for the marble to run through a series of colorful tubes and funnels.
Photo credit: Anna White

Libraries are filled with screen-free entertainment, including play areas, crafts and performances. It is easy to make the connection between library services and supporting healthy screen time habits.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Libraries can organize a screen-free week anytime, not just the first week of May. Consider incorporating a screen-free celebration into your summer reading plans and share the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Family Media Plan.
  • Highlight upcoming family crafts or other activities as a series of “Screen Free Breaks” and share some of the benefits of electronic media fasts.
  • Incorporate books into storytime that encourage balance and healthy habits around screen media and spark conversations between children and their caregivers.
  • Share ideas for tantrum-free screentime transitions at your next storytime. “Just like adding a movement activity helps us transition between books in storytime, giving kids something physical to do like jumping jacks or playing a game of Simon Says after screen time can help make the transition away from screen time easier.”
  • If your library circulates board games, Tonieboxes, lawn games, museum passes, consider highlighting them as screen-free fun.
  • Share book lists on managing screen time like this one Jefferson County Public Library in Colorado created: Screen Time Solutions and Family Tech

This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competencies: I. Commitment to Client Group, II. Reference and User Services, III. Programming Skills

Anna White has worked in public libraries for 15 years. She currently manages the Owings Mills Branch of Baltimore County Public Library in Maryland where she helped create and implement media mentorship resources for library staff. She joined the ALSC Children & Technology Committee in 2022.

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