Screen-Free Week: Is unplugging completely the way to go?

Screen-Free Week: Is unplugging completely the way to go?

Today is the start of Screen-Free Week, a campaign to get families to turn off the television, tablet, video games, phones and all other devices. The goal is to get you to unplug, or power down for a week, from April 29-May 5. Farewell, Facebook. See you next week, Snapchat. Ta ta, Twitter.

Including multi-tasking, children 8 to 18 spend 7.5 hours per day with screens, including television, video games and computers.

Holy screen time, Batman. That is a bit scary given that time spent with screens is associated with obesity, sleep disturbances, and attention span issues.

Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood is sponsoring Screen-Free Week, saying, "On April 29-May 5, people around the country (and world!) will turn OFF TV, video and mobile games, and other screens they use for entertainment, and turn ON the world around them! Think, read, play, daydream, explore nature, enjoy family and friends--do all this and so much more when you spend 7 days unplugged."

Those are certainly admirable goals, I'm not certain just how feasible screen-free week really is in our world.  Okay, it is feasible, but is it practical? No.

But how unplugged can we really be?

The lines between work and school and entertainment have really blurred. Helping tweens to learn what screen time is necessary and what screen time not is tough, and unplugging completely doesn't promote the necessary conversations with our kids about what screen time productive, healthy or even necessary, and what is not.

My tween loves reading on a Kindle. The junior high teachers post all the homework assignments online and they are integrated into a student's individual calendar that is considered their assignment notebook. We may FaceTime on the iPhone with her grandparents in another time zone. These are all okay with me.

Instead of completely unplugging for just a week, why not focus on all things in moderation for the long haul?

Some screen time is necessary in this crazy world. Sometimes screen time can be beneficial, and other times it can have negative effects.

When I asked my tween at breakfast this morning what her favorite unplugged activities are, she said jump roping, making an obstacle course, playing board games and reading. These are all things she did this weekend. To me, that underscores the point that limiting screen time and promoting our kids' healthy relationships with the unplugged world as well as with the media is an ongoing conversation and effort.

I think that conversation and effort are more important than just saying no for a week. I wish unplugging for a few days was the answer, but it is not.

For great information on Screen-Free Week, check out this ChicagoNow School Zone blog, Could You Go Screen-Free For a Week?

You may also like Kids and video games: what games are safe, and how much should they play?

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Filed under: Technology

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