What is ScreenBreak?
What is ScreenBreak?
Since 1995, The Alliance for Early Childhood has sponsored ScreenBreak (formerly TV
Tune Out Week). Children from approximately age three to 13 and their families are
encouraged to turn off their television sets and other screens, such as video and
computer games, for seven days and, together, experience the adventure of a week
with no screens. Families make their own rules about screen usage during the week,
ranging from no screens (“cold turkey”) to limited or reduced use. Families are
encouraged to enjoy their own activities at home or some of the many alternative
activities that have been coordinated throughout the community. Activities range from
arts and crafts to a variety of sample classes, from languages to the arts and sports.
ScreenBreak is now held in early March, after being held in February for the first
several years. Approximately 30 schools are involved, including all the public, private
and parochial preschools, elementary schools, junior highs, and day care centers in
Winnetka, Northfield and Kenilworth. Several schools from surrounding communities,
such as Wilmette, Glencoe, and Highland Park, also take part. Approximately
5,000 children participate each year.
Purpose and goals
The purpose of ScreenBreak is not to suggest throwing out the family television set
forever nor is it to make families feel guilty about watching or using screens. Instead, ScreenBreak marks a time each year for families to evaluate the role that television and
other screens play in their lives, to explore other options, and to become more educatedabout screen media.
Community activities during ScreenBreak
ScreenBreak fosters a wonderful sense of community and a feeling that "we're all in this
together." The Alliance sponsors a Kick-Off event, on the first day of the week, to
promote involvement and generate excitement about ScreenBreak. Tickets to this high-energy performance are open to the public. At the end of the week, The Alliance
sponsors a Fabulous Friday Fun event to conclude the week. This event is also open to
Throughout the week, dozens of merchants, schools, and organizations in Winnetka,
Northfield, Kenilworth and other communities sponsor events and activities as
alternatives to screens. Examples include:
Service and Volunteer Opportunities
Art and Construction
Dance and Sports
Adventure and Outdoor
And, much, much more!
The activities provided during ScreenBreak are not limited to just the kids - the entire family can get involved! While some families enjoy participating in several activities throughout the week, others find this a perfect week to reconnect by participating in low-key family activities at home, such as reading, arts and crafts, games, cooking, or other family projects. The ScreenBreak Guide contains a full description of activities offered in the community as well as fresh ideas for families to share right at home.
ScreenBreak Drawing Contest
The Alliance sponsors a Drawing Contest to encourage kids to depict their own
interpretation of the current ScreenBreak theme. The contest is divided into two age
categories: The Junior Division consisting of preschool through 1st grade and the
Senior Division, 2nd through 8th grade. All Drawing Contest winners receive free
admission to and are honored at the Kick-Off event. The Drawing Contest deadline is in
January. Details and rules are distributed to schools and throughout the community in
December. They can also be obtained on the Alliance’s website.
Students at participating schools receive ScreenBreak materials the week prior to the
event. Preschoolers receive a ScreenBreak button and elementary-aged children and
older receive a red wristband. All children receive a Guide that contains a complete
schedule of activities and events, as well as ideas for at-home projects, games and
activities that are great alternatives to spending time in front of “screens.” ScreenBreak
cards can be found on the back of the Guide in case wristbands or buttons are lost.
ScreenBreak materials are funded through the generosity of community sponsors,
including banks, merchants, local organizations and parents. Varying levels of
sponsorship are available in exchange for ads placed in the ScreenBreak Guide.
Supplemental materials are available online at www.TheAllianceForEC.org. A color coded “At-a-Glance” chart will help you find your favorite activities fast, and a Calendar Template will make planning your entire week a snap. Updates and changes to the lineup of activities will also be posted on the website. Families that wish to participate in ScreenBreak activities that do not have children who attend a participating school may purchase a “ScreenBreak Kit”.
During every ScreenBreak, families discover that TV and other screens influence
children's use of free time and also has an impact on their reading, playing, learning and
family interactions. Parents offer a variety of reports about how the removal of screens
enhances the lives of family members, including:
A typical reaction: "I had no idea we used that TV so much!" Each year, the experience
prompts some families to make permanent changes in their use of television and other
screens. A few families turn off the TV set and never turn it back on again. Some
families are reassured that they really don't watch a lot of TV or use other screens
excessively anyway. And some report returning to their previous screen habits as soon
as ScreenBreak ends, but they are grateful for the annual reminder. The Alliance
encourages each family to use ScreenBreak in whatever way suits it best, setting its
own goals and its own rules for participation.
After 18 years, ScreenBreak has become a tradition in Winnetka, Northfield, and
Kenilworth. It has grown each year. In 1995, its first year, approximately 3,000 children
participated. They were primarily students in preschools and early elementary grades in schools in Winnetka and Northfield. All the activities for the entire week fit on two sides of one piece of paper!
In 1998, activities appropriate for older students were added since children who had
participated as elementary school students wanted to continue to participate as they
entered junior high. The distribution of materials expanded to include the junior high
schools in Winnetka and Northfield.
In 2006, Kenilworth became involved. In 2011, The Alliance’s Associate Member
schools, located in Wilmette, Glenview, and Glencoe, participated as well. These
communities have also begun to offer activities during the week, thus expanding the offerings. In 2012, approximately 5,000 children and over 100 businesses participated. And our numbers continue to grow!
Families look forward to this special week each year. ScreenBreak is both educational
and enlightening. And it’s fun, too!