By Megan Fischer, Director of Communications, Providence Children’s Museum
Shut down the video games, turn off the TV and step away from your screens — May 5-11, 2014 is Screen-Free Week. This international celebration, organized by Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, encourages children, families, schools and communities to turn off screen media for a week — to unplug, play, read, create, explore.
Excessive screen time has long been an issue, but the problem is growing as more kids have individual devices and near-constant media access. A national survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 8-18 year-olds average more than 7Â½ hours per day in front of screens and consuming entertainment media, which adds up to more than 53 hours a week — nearly twice as much time as they spend in school.
And although American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines recommend less than two hours of entertainment-based screen time per day for kids and no screen use for children under 2 years, very young children spend an astonishing amount of time at screens. According to Nielsen, preschoolers average more than 32 hours of television viewing each week, putting their screen media use at an all-time high.
Dr. Susan Linn, director of Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and author of Consuming Kids: The Hostile Takeover of Childhood, notes that while not everything on screens is bad, in general screen time encourages passive media consumption and limits the time children spend engaged in creative play. “Unlimited access to miniaturized screens means that even when children are out and about, we are depriving them of opportunities to engage in the world,” explains Linn. “They learn to look to screens rather than to their environment for stimulation, to expect to be entertained rather than entertaining themselves.” In addition to being habit forming, screen time can also make kids less physically active and more prone to attention problems, poor school performance and sleep disruption.
So take a break during Screen-Free Week and see what you and your kids can do without. Click here to take the screen-free pledge and to get ideas for screen-free events and more.
Worried about screen time withdrawal? That your kids will whine about being bored without screens? Let them figure it out! It’s amazing how boredom can inspire creativity if you allow the space for it to happen.
Whether you choose to limit screens a little or turn them off entirely, have a wonderful unplugged week!
- Facing the Screen Dilemma: Young Children, Technology and Early Education, an excellent guide about the current state of screens and their effects on the brain from Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, Alliance for Childhood, and TRUCE (Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Children’s Entertainment)
- Media Use resources from the American Academy of Pediatrics
- Tips for Media Use from the Center on Media and Child Health
For more unplugged fun, visit Providence Children’s Museum to create Fairy Houses on May 3 & 4, explore the art of Origami on May 10 & 11, and discover many more imaginative hands-on activities. Visit ChildrenMuseum.orgÂ for more information.
Image credit: Flickr user ttwice