Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Screen Free Week April 29-May 5, 2013

For several years now I've been a supporter of Screen Free Week, a time to turn off all screens (television, computers, video games, social media, smart phones) unnecessary for school or work.

As you know, I am a Facebook junkie. I post often and follow many. How can I support Screen Free Week?

Because it is a good reminder. I don't think we should never use screens, but we should learn to limit. Sometimes the best way to cut back is to go cold turkey.

Screens (television, smart phones, computers, movie screens) dominate our lives. I recently saw this picture show up on PreventDisease.com's Facebook page:

I wish I thought it was an exaggeration, but it seems so true.
I have seen a group of teens all dolled up for prom sitting across each other at a restaurant table, all texting instead of talking.
I often see preschool aged kids watch another kid play a handheld video game. I've tried watching someone else play, and I can't even see the screen, so I have no idea why they like to watch each other so much. It is like a drug... they have to watch.
I ask kids what their favorite activities are at their well visits, and a large percentage of the time "play video games" is the top answer. 
Screen Free Week gives us time to reconnect. Turn off all screens not required for work or school. Limit the off-hours work-related screen time. Stop answering texts and emails during family time. Turn it off!

Not sure what to do with all your free time? Check out this list of 101 Screen Free Activities.

Want your kids to get on board? Talk to them about the fun things you can do with them. Have them sign a Pledge Card. Share the cards with their friends or teacher.

Do I realize how hard this is? Yes. See my Screen Free Week Reflections blog for some of the issues I encountered while going screen free in 2011. Despite the logistics of going Screen Free, it is overall a great experience!

Why is this needed?

  • Screen time is associated with obesity, loss of sleep, aggression, and attention problems.
  • Children are exposed to marketing, negative events, and age-inappropriate themes.
  • Preschoolers spend an average of 32 hours a week on a screen. That's almost a full time job! Where's the free play time?
  • School aged children average 7.5 hours of screen time a day-- that's over 50 hours a week!
  • Screen time cuts into sleep time for many kids and adults. Sleep is one of my big three needs: proper nutrition, daily exercise, and adequate sleep. These should be among the top priorities of every day.
  • For more facts and research on screen time, see this pdf from Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.

I challenge you and your family to a Screen Free Week April 29th - May 5th.

Reflect on the changes you made at the end of the week. What new habits can you initiate long term? Hopefully you can keep family time more protected from the screen interruptions. Instead of watching tv with your kids, play a game. Resist answering that text during your child's replay of his school day. Stay off the computer until the kids go to bed. Turn the tv off during meals and keep the television set to age appropriate programming if your kids are in the area. (For ideas on age appropriate television, movies, books and games, check out CommonSenseMedia.)

In the long run the real answer is balance, not complete avoidance. Screen time offers a lot of benefit: relaxation, entertainment, knowledge sharing. But it becomes a problem when it overshadows other things. Small doses are acceptable. Too much of anything isn't good. Find the balance!

Share what changes you made during your week and which ones you think your family can do long term. I'd love to hear from you!

Previous Screen Free blogs:
Why Screen Free
Screen Free Week Reflections

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