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Screen-Free Week: Turn off that TV and celebrate – not suffer

Screen-Free Week is celebrated – not suffered – April 30 to May 6. Studies show that too much screen time, whether in front of the T.V. or an iPad or computer can hurt development and stifle creativity. So unplug and give your kids the gift of a Screen-Free Week.

By Guest blogger / April 27, 2012

Screen-Free Week is a way to take a break from tradition: by not being in front of a screen. Here entertainer Dick Clark and his family relaxed at home in Philadelphia 1960. But studies show that too much screen timecan hurt development and stifle creativity.

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Have you heard of “screen time”? It’s a term describing the time we spend in front of screens, large and small, consuming media on a daily basis.

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Guest blogger

Rebecca Hains, Ph.D. is a children's media culture expert. A professor of advertising and media studies at Salem State University, in Salem, Mass., her research focuses on girls and media. The author of "Growing Up With Girl Power: Girlhood on Screen and in Everyday Life,"  she blogs about children's media and popular cultur and lives with her husband and son in Peabody, Mass.
 

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Television, computers, video games, iPhones, iPads: Many screens compete for our attention, and we’re spending more time with them than ever.

Because of concerns about this trend, experts encourage parents to keep their children’s time with all these screens to a minimum. For example, 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.

But it’s easy to make screen time a family habit. In the typical US home, TV is a focal point for relaxation and entertainment – constantly on, as long as someone is at home and awake.

Unfortunately, for our kids, too much screen time can harm their development. Too much media and too little time on other developmentally important tasks can lead to poor school performance, childhood obesity, and other problems. New research suggests that even background television – when the TV is on without really being watched – can harm younger children by interrupting their mental tasks.

Too much screen time hurts older children, too. For example, adolescents who watch three or more hours of television each day often have more trouble completing their homework and risk long-term academic problems, according to the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. Overuse of Internet, including social media, has been implicated in similar problems.

Media habits are hard to break. That’s why the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) sponsors Screen-Free Week annually. This year, Screen-Free Week runs from from April 30 to May 6. Thousands of families will participate, putting aside their screens for other fun activities.

The CCFC explains: Screen-Free Week is a fun and innovative way to improve children’s well-being by reducing dependence on entertainment screen media, including television, video games, computers, and hand-held devices.  It’s a time for children to play outside, read, daydream, create, explore, and spend more time having fun with family and friends.

It’s also a chance to reset media habits. After taking a break for a week, many families find it easier to enjoy other activities besides screen time on a routine basis.

So, what will families do with all their “extra time” during Screen-Free Week? The possibilities are limited only by our imaginations. The CCFC suggests these ideas:

  • Play with art supplies
  • Play with words
  • Play with music
  • Make up songs
  • Play with blocks
  • Play with nothing
  • Play cards and board games
  • Play indoors
  • Play outdoors
  • Play tag
  • Play sports
  • Play together
  • Play alone

My family will join Screen-Free Week. Won’t you?

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family and parenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor, and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. Rebecca Hains blogs at rebeccahains.wordpress.com.

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