Last week was National Screen Free Week, an opportunity for children and their families, schools, and communities to turn off screens . . . and turn on life. Sponsored by The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, the week is a fun and innovative way to improve children’s well being by drawing attention to the amount of time the average kid spends in front of televisions, video games, and other electronic distractions.
As Rebecca Hains, a childrens media expert and Christian Science Monitor blogger, pointed out, it’s also a chance to reset often deeply engrained media habits.
As the father of a five-year-old Caillou and Berenstain Bears fan, I know just how engrained those habits can be. Daddy has to shower? How about a video?! Got to run Mom to the airport? Grab the iPad! Need a little more sleep? Let’s turn on a cartoon!
The harmful affects of too much screen time—childhood obesity, poor school performance and attention problems—are not a mystery to me. And I know the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for children under the age of two, and a maximum of two hours daily for preschool children.
That said, while we’ve largely observed those rules in our house, its easy to slip into bad habits.
Enter Screen Free Week, which my daughter’s elementary school is observing this week. Last weekend we broached the subject of our participation with her and she responded, with a bit of a scowl, “I don’t want to participate.”
But we persevered, she agreed, and it has been a revelation. The last several mornings she’s used her free time to draw cards (it turns out Teacher Appreciation Day was also this week) and work on her Lego creations. And in the evenings, we’ve spent more time outside hitting balls and inside building forts with blankets and cushions from the couch. Sure, these activities took more planning or time on our part, but they’ve been a lot of fun and really fulfilling, for her and us.
I won’t say that we’ll never turn the television on again. We will. But just a week without screen time has helped me understand how reflexively I acquiesce to my daughter’s requests for a quick Caillou fix. I feel better prepared now to guide her in a more creative direction, thanks in no small part to the resources offered on CCFC’s site, including this downloadable list of things to do instead of turning on the TV, from another blog. You can even print it and post it on the fridge!
How about you? Did your family observe Screen Free Week? Either way, we’d love to hear any additional ideas for screen free activities in the comments below!