Technology turned off for a week? Sounds nearly impossible to do!
This is the challenge of Screen-Free Week (formerly known as TV Turn-Off Week) which is April 29 through May 5, 2013.
It is an annual celebration that asks children, families, schools, and communities across the nation to turn off the screens and “turn on life instead.”
Rather than relying on screens for entertainment, children play, read, daydream, explore nature, and enjoy spending time with family and friends. This means no television, video games, computers and hand-held devices for seven days. Screen-Free Week is sponsored by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood,a group dedicated to countering the harmful effects of marketing to children.
“Such wide-ranging support for Screen-Free Week reflects the growing national consensus that kids spend too much time with television, video games, apps, and computers,” said Dr. Susan Linn, director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, the official home of Screen-Free Week. “More screen time means less time for hands-on play, reading, playing outside, exploring nature and dreaming—activities crucial to a healthy, happy childhood."
As a teacher, I encouraged my third grade class to participate in TV Turn-Off Week back in the 1990s. I knew then what is true now for my own children. Screen time was taking away from reading, playing, and some of the basics of childhood.
The environment has dramatically changed since then. Now it’s not just television we have to try to unplug from, but an even more challenging array of items which include iTouches, iPhones, iPads, computer games, texting, emailing, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and….on and on.
In our family, we have tried to hold a No Tech Tuesday since my children first started using these devices. We take one day out of the week to make a conscious effort to unplug from phones and video games. Needless to say when you have teens and tweens, their main form of communicating is through these items. These devices are virtually glued to their hands! (Adults too really) I feel like I never see their faces anymore, just the tops of their heads. Sad to admit, it is pretty easy to text them to come down for dinner rather than go looking for them. So far, No Tech Tuesday hasn’t been a huge success, but we keep on trying.
Convincing the family to go from just one day a week to unplugging for an entire week will be a challenge. Noticing the wording of the Screen Free Week press release as an “annual celebration,” I will try to spin the experiment that way because I know they will see it as some sort of punishment.
Reasons to limit screen time:*
- School-age children spend more time with screen media—television, video games, computers, and hand-held devices—than in any other activity but sleeping.
- Screen media use is at an all-time high among preschoolers—according to Nielsen, young children spend, on average, more than 32 hours a week watching just television.
- Screen time is habit forming and linked to poor school performance, childhood obesity, poor sleep habits, and attention problems.
- 64% of children ages 12 to 24 months watch TV and videos for an average of just over 2 hours a day—even though the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends discouraging screen time for children under two.
*From the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood
Screen-Free Week Endorsed by Many
For years, families, schools, libraries, faith communities, municipalities, and businesses around the country have been participating in and supporting Screen-Free Week . It should be viewed as not so much a “snubbing of screens for seven days, but instead a springboard for important lifestyle changes that will improve well-being and quality of life all year round.”
Screen-Free Week is endorsed by dozens of organizations including the American Public Health Association, the National Black Child Development Institute, the National Head Start Association, KaBOOM!, the US Play Coalition and many others.
Are We Up for the Challenge?
I am not sure I can make it through an entire week myself without screen time. My daily habit is to check email and Facebook several times a day. I watch the news on television every morning. I read articles on the internet all the time. I spend time perusing Pinterest.
Can I really get the whole family to try this? How tough will it be? My daughter is in---she thinks it will be easy. My sons say “why would we do THAT?” My husband says “it’s a great idea for the kids.”
Luckily, one of my favorite non-profits, Ka-BOOM! is on board with this event. KaBOOM!’s mission is to bring play to children. Their vision is a playground within walking distance of every child which makes them a perfect partner for Screen-Free Week. They help with the Screen-Free challenge by providing ideas for activities for the week. Sign-up to take their pledge to trade one hour of screen time for one hour of family play time and they will send game ideas to stay active for the entire week.
Says Stephanie Bowen, Director of KaBOOM!, “The amount of time children spend in front of a screen directly competes with active play, which is proven to develop a child’s overall physical, creative and social skills. Kids need time to play every day, in their homes, schools and neighborhoods. Screen Free Week reminds us—adults and children alike—to reclaim that time and go outside and play.”
For a listing of Screen-Free Week activities, please see click here.
Even corporate leaders at Facebook, Cisco, and Twitter encourage their employees to turn off and tune out tech from time to time. Google wants employees to be mindful. Read my previous post on taking some time out from technology here.
Who else is in and up for the Screen-Free Week challenge? What will you do in place of "screen time" for entertainment? Check back at School Zone to see how it went. Here goes...until next week!
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Tags: American Public Health Association, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, Cisco, Facebook, Google, Instagram, iPad, Iphone, Itouch, KaBOOM!, National Black Child Development Institute, National Head Start Association, School Zone, Screen Free Week, technology, television, TV Turn-Off Week, Twitter, US Play Coalition, YouTube