IN THE last decade, electronic media such as televisions, computers, game systems, smart phones, and tablets have become such a big a part of modern living that in many homes, at least one electronic device may be on at all hours of the day and night.
Screen Free Week is an attempt to make the public aware of the importance of reducing children’s and the whole family’s dependence on electronic media.
On average, people watch four hours of television, and then spend another four-plus hours with computers, games, video, iPods and cell phones every day. The biggest culprit, television, is used more than any other screen. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the upper limit for children’s television viewing should be two hours daily. The Department of Education concurs. In a report on the television viewing habits of 4th graders, 36 percent watched one to two hours a day, while 18 percent watched six or more hours.
Excessive time spent in front of a TV or other screen for recreational purposes cuts into family time, and contributes to a sedentary and solitary lifestyle, poor nutrition and eating habits, and obesity in adults and children. That is unhealthy for all of us, both mentally and physically. Some experts even believe the screens should be left off completely during the week so children can complete homework and participate in extracurricular activities.
Participating in Screen Free Week can help parents set the habit for less screen time for their children. By turning off the television and other electronics and focusing on the family instead, parents will be making a strong statement that communication with one another and spending time together in other activities are more important than interacting with electronics. Turning off the screen will give families time to think, read, create, and do the things for which they never have time. This will allow them to connect with each other, and engage in their communities.
Screen Free Week can also be a first step in building awareness about how television viewing and other electronics can affect children and adults, and help families take affirmative steps to come closer together.
Check the Screen Free Week Facebook page for more information about this very worthwhile event. Participating in the activities suggested online can bring positive changes to a family and help parents use electronic media as a tool, rather than as something which runs their lives.
Screen Free Week 2012 is set for April 30 to May 6. This event is endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Education Association, and the American Medical Association. Next week, I will give you some additional suggestions for turning off your electronics, and tuning in to your family.
Elizabeth Hamilton, M.Ed., MA, is a teacher with 22 years of professional experience. You can write to her at successfullearner[at]yahoo.com with your questions or comments.