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Fading to black: alternatives to screen-time

An upcoming issue of the magazine will feature 200 movie recommendations, and were anyone to watch even a fraction of these films, that’d be an awful lot of screen time. So, in the name of balance, let’s make a plug for taking a screen sabbatical, going without our smartphone, TV, and computer for a day, a week, or even a month. We’re not talking about the time you have to spend on your laptop for work, or when you’re using your phone to talk to your dear old mom. What we’re talking about here is Tik Tok, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter time. Could you go without all that, for a week? It’d be difficult, but could you go screen-free?

And If it’d be really difficult, might that be a sign that you should make the attempt? After all, we want to own our phone; we don’t want it to own us.

Of course, going screen-free for a whole week (or a month, or a day) isn’t about simply stopping the scrolling. Stopping will just leave you bored and antsy – you can’t replace something with just doing nothing! No, if you’re going to succeed then you’ll need to find other activities to fill the time. To that end, here’s a list of 25 alternatives to consider:

  1. grab a good book
  2. organize a ____ tournament (ping pong, horseshoes, croquet, etc.)
  3. listen to a podcast, audiobook, or the car radio
  4. go for coffee with a friend
  5. read through the Bible in month
  6. play a card or board game
  7. share a favorite book with your children
  8. find a hobby (car repair, woodworking, fishing, etc.)
  9. go for a walk and talk, chatting up all the neighbors you meet
  10. hold a _____ tasting party (wine, cheese, foreign cuisine, etc.)
  11. shoot hoops with your kids
  12. actually clean the garage
  13. phone your mom (it doesn’t count as screen time, even if you Skype her)
  14. knock off some of those home repairs
  15. have your kids help you with home repairs (even if takes twice as long)
  16. hit Costco as a family
  17. join a Bible study
  18. get an old-fashioned newspaper subscription
  19. take a night class
  20. hold a games night with neighbors
  21. serve a meal at a Rescue Mission
  22. go biking or rollerblading or bowling
  23. plant a garden
  24. hike up the nearest mountain
  25. organize a painting party (painting the fence, etc.) for a widow
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The smartphone stack

You're out with some friends having a nice dinner. But one has been talking on his phone for the last ten minutes, and a second is managing to fork food into her mouth while still using both hands to type text messages. And the fourth member of your party is preoccupied with tracking down some YouTube video he just has to show everyone. So you're out with your friends for dinner but it seems an awful lot like eating alone. We've all experienced something similar... and put our friends through something similar. So how can we return a little decorum to our dinners-out? One suggestion making the rounds is something called "The Phone Stack." After everyone orders their meals all smartphones are placed in the center of the table, one on top of another, face down. Though the course of the meal it's simply a given that one of these, or all, are going to buzz, bing, or sing, but here's the kicker: no one is allowed to grab their phone until dinner and dessert is done. If someone feels they just have to pick up their phone, that's okay, but then they also have to pick up the check for the night! Can there be exceptions made? Maybe someone is a doctor on call, or a volunteer member of the local fire department, and just needs to check their messages. Yup, allowances for that kind of thing can be made. But for the rest of the group this is a fun way of ensuring we all connect with one another, rather than with our devices. And for those dining-in nights, a variation can be done involving who is going to do the dishes!...