April 29 – May 5, 2013 is Screen-Free Week, an annual national celebration coordinated by the Center for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), a national advocacy organization devoted to reducing the impact of commercialism on children. Children, families, schools, and communities spend seven days TURNING OFF entertainment SCREEN media (TV, video games, computers, iPads, smartphones) and “TURN ON LIFE.”
Did you know that–
- Preschool children spend “an astonishing average of 32 hours a week” in front of screens—and it’s more for older children. CCFC writes, “Excessive screen time is harmful for children—it’s linked to poor school performance, childhood obesity, attention problems, and the erosion of creative play (the foundation of learning) constructive problem solving, and creativity.”
- The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under 2 should watch NO TV and children age 2 and over should watch less that 2 hours per day. But, on any given day, 29% of babies under the age of 1 are watching TV and videos for an average of about 90 minutes. Twenty-three percent have a television in their bedroom.
- TV watching “rewires” a child’s brain, leading to attentional issues by the age of 7. The “pace of TV is sped up” leading the young infant to believe that the “quick scene shifts of video images” is normal. TV watching may over stimulate the child’s brain, “causing permanent changes to developing neural pathways.” As a child is staring at the TV, these hugely important neural pathways are not being developed.
- Developers of children’s apps for phones and tablets restrict screen time for their own children. More than one of these developers said, “We have a rule of no screen time during the week, unless it’s clearly educational. On the weekends, they can play. I give them a limit of half an hour and then stop. It can be too addictive, too stimulating for the brain.”
- Some toddlers are becoming so addicted to iPads and smartphones that they require psychological treatment. “They can’t cope and become addicted, reacting with tantrums and uncontrollable behavior when they are taken away.” Young technology addicts (some as young as 4 years old) experience the same withdrawal symptoms as alcoholics or heroin addicts and are enrolled in a “digital detox” program that weans children off computer games and mobile phones.
This information is disconcerting, to say the least, and needs to be taken seriously. I worry about our children’s social emotional development, ability to interact with others, language development, and their communication skills. Research shows that children learn one-on-one from people, not from videos and television!
“The skills children will always need to thrive–deep thinking, the ability to differentiate fact from hype, creativity, self-regulation, empathy and self-reflection–aren’t learned in front of any screen. They are learned through face-to-face communication, hands-on exploration of the world, opportunities for silence and time to dream.”~Dr. Susan Linn, Director, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood
Screen-Free Week reminds us to go outside and play. How about committing to 30-60 minutes of active play each day. Disconnect from all things electronic and do one of the following–
- Fly a Kite
- Chalk up a Hopscotch Game
- Take a Walk
- Kick a Ball
- Run, Jump, Climb
- Play Frisbee
- Ride a Trike
- Plan a Treasure Hunt
- Play Tag
- Shoot Some Hoops
- Set up an Obstacle Course
- Have a Dance Party
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