Technology plays an increasingly crucial role in your child’s schooling, but screens are also the primary form of entertainment for children today. Many experts in the field of child development agree: children are subjected to too much screen time.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for children under 2 and less than 2 hours per day for older children. Despite this fact, studies show that forty percent of 3-month-old infants are regular viewers of screen media, and 19% of babies 1 year and under have a TV in their bedroom. Studies reveal even higher usage in older children: children ages 8 -18 spend average of 4 ½ hours per day watching television, 1 ½ hours using computers, and more than an hour playing video games.
What’s so bad about the tube? Here are some sobering statistics:
- Screen time for children under 3 is linked to irregular sleep patterns and delayed language acquisition.
- Toddler screen time is linked to problems in later childhood, including lower math and school achievement, and increased Body Mass Index (BMI), and increased early childhood aggression.
- The more time preschool children spend with screens, the less time they spend engaged in creative play, which many experts consider the foundation of constructive problem solving, learning, and creativity.
- In older children, time spent with screens is associated with obesity, sleep disturbances, and attention span issues.
What would life in your home be like without screens for entertainment? The week of April 30th-May 6th, the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood (CCFC) is hosting Screen-Free Week. Thousands of participating families will turn off televisions, computers and video games, and turn on fun--in the garden, in the kitchen, and in their communities. The focus is on entertainment screen media; media usage for work or school is the exception during Screen-Free week.
“It’s our hope that children and families will use the week to explore the wonders of creative play,” says CCFC Director and Harvard Medical School Psychiatry Instructor Susan Linn. “We hope more than anything that people have fun and that they use that as a spring-board for changing lifestyles and reducing screen-time all year round. It’s not just about turning off the television, it’s about providing fun alternatives to television that inspire children to learn.”
If instating a no-TV rule for a whole week seems overwhelming, Linn suggests reaching out to your child’s school, class or community so that your family isn’t going it alone. Screen-Free week can be made easier—and more fun—when you can share ideas and coordinate activities with other parents on a local level. For a free organizer’s kit, with step-by-step instructions for organizing your own Screen-Free Week, click here.
Here are more tips from Linn on making Screen-Free week a great experience for your family:
- Decide what “screen-free” means for your family. Does it include email and text messaging? Are you still going to Skype with family members in another state or country? Will the older kids have homework to do on a computer? There’s no “right” way to do this, but make sure that you’re all clear about what your commitment will be.
- Make plans together for the week. Start planning in early April (or sooner) so that by the time Screen-Free Week rolls around, everything is in place and ready to go. Make sure that everyone (who can) has a specific responsibility and an equal vote on key decisions.
- Include friends, relatives and neighbors in what you are doing, even if for just one day or evening. Get together with other families at a park, play organized games or just hang out.
- Set a calendar of activities and events for the week. One goal of Screen-Free Week is to allow kids unstructured time to generate their own screen-free play and activities. But, especially if this is your first time participating as a family, you’ll want to make sure that you are not left twiddling your thumbs. It is most important to schedule some family activities in the early part of the week so that everyone can adjust to being screen-free.
- Don’t forget to assess life without screens for a week with your child. Make a chart for each day of the week and list the activities that took place. What was her favorite thing that she did during Screen-Free Week?
Here are 30 fun activity ideas and printables to help inspire your family during Screen-Free Week:
Fun with Reading:
- Act Like Animals Movement Game
- Jump Rope the Days of the Week!
- Play Flag Tag
- Play Marble Tag
- Over and Out! Two Great Obstacle Courses
- Plan a Treasure Hunt
- Create a Nature Mobile
- Write a Backyard Field Guide
- Make an Outdoor Fairy Dwelling
Arts and Crafts:
- Make Smudge Monsters
- Jewelry from Self-Hardening Clay
- Craft Wild Animal Puppets
- Write Nutsy News Stories
- Make Marbled Paper Greeting Cards
In the Kitchen:
- Bake Banana Muffins
- Cook Alphabet Pancakes
- Make Guacamole
- Bake Sweet Potato Fries
- Creamy Tuna Pasta Bake
If screen time allows you some peace and quiet to prepare dinner in the evenings, consider these dinner table printables instead: