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Parents: Turn off the screens and just enjoy play

Screen-Free week (April 30-May 6) is a good reminder that children's television time should be monitored - not just what they watch, but how much they watch too.

Disconnect the televisions, computers and video games and instead get up, get busy and get outside. This week, April 30-May 6, is Screen-Free Week.

It's an annual celebration sponsored by the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood when children, families, schools and communities turn off screens and turn on life!

It's easy to not notice how much television children are watching. The CCFC says that the typical preschooler averages 32 hours of screen time each week and that number is even higher for older kids. That's virtually a full-time job!

Children are wired to move. Sitting in front of a television for 6 hours a day goes against everything their bodies were designed to do. They learn through play and they want to play.

When children have excessive screen time the CCFC says it can lead to poor school performance, problems with attention, irregular sleep patterns, and childhood obesity.

Here are a few sobering statistics about the impact of excessive screen time on children:

  • School-age children spend nearly twice as many hours with screen media -television, video games, computers and hand-held devices - as they do in school.
  • Forty-seven percent of babies one year old and younger watch TV and videos for an average of almost two hours a day - even though the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for children under two. 
  • The more time preschool children spend with screens, the less time they spend engaged in creative play - the foundation of learning, constructive problem solving and creativity.
  • Including multitasking, children ages 8-18 spend an average of 4 1/2 hours per day watching television, 1 1/2 hours using computers and more than an hour playing video games.
  • Adolescents who watch three or more hours of television daily are at especially high risk for poor homework completion, negative attitudes toward school, poor grades and long-term academic failure.

With Atlanta weather expected to be very nice this week, it couldn't be a more perfect time to go "unplugged" and get outside to explore, exercise and just enjoy the great outdoors.

The important thing to remember though is that Screen-Free Week is not meant as a short term "project" for seven days. It's really intended to show families that they can easily entertain themselves instead of having their screens do that for them.

If you're ready to unplug or even just cut down on your child's intake, here are some screen-free activities for your family to get you started:

  1. Review the Macaroni Kid CEM Calendar as a family and pick one or two activities that you can participate in. You'll find lots of story hours at the library, area exhibits, festivals and other activities to help you "get up and do!"
  2. Host a family game night. Invite some friends over for your favorite board or card games!
  3. Cook dinner and other meals together as a family. Macaroni Kid CEM has LOTS of kid-friendly recipes to get you started!
  4. Create some crafts. Need some inspiration? Check out some of our favorites: Homemade Bubble Solution, Playtime Wand, Easy Slime, Family Fun JarCrazy Caterpillars and Oobleck.
  5. And, to make your participation "official," you and your family can sign a pledge card, track your weekly activities and celebrate with a completion certificate.

What other ideas do you have for screen-free family activities? Share them in the comments section below.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Kwanza Fisher May 03, 2012 at 05:22 PM
Television is for consumers, not producers. I will follow the Obama's lead and mandate television for weekends only. Life is so much better not spent in a hypnotized couch potato stupor when there's the outdoors, books, newspapers, and OTHER PEOPLE!
Dr. Nana Kwaku Opare and Ama Opare May 08, 2012 at 05:50 PM
Television provides negative images of us as people and keeps us thinking in ways that is profitable to big business at our expense. Thank you Roni for this post.
Roni Jeter May 08, 2012 at 07:30 PM
So glad to hear others are looking to turn off the screens more often too!

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