PHOTO: It’s estimated that for school aged children, screen time is second to only one other activity: sleeping. Photo credit: Neeta Lind/Flickr
As the time that kids spend with television, video games, apps and computers continues to grow, they’re being encouraged to take the next seven days to unplug. This is Screen-Free Week, an annual initiative encouraging children to turn off screens in favor of activities like reading, hands-on playing or exploring nature. Sara Adelmann, screen time project manager, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, says they hope that it leads to family connections that continue beyond the week. “For instance, some families find that they have more, richer conversations at dinner if there’s no devices around, so they might do that more frequently during the year. Or they might find that they and their children have a better night’s sleep if they don’t use devices a few hours before bed.” Screen-Free Week began in 1996 as “TV Turnoff,” and since then millions of children and their families have taken part. Excessive screen time can be linked to poor school performance, childhood obesity and attention problems, Adelmann says, and it is becoming more and more of an issue as tablets and smart phones become more common. “Certainly we’re seeing an increase in the use of mobile devices. A recent survey came out saying that just in the past two years, the time children spend on media devices has tripled,” she says. It’s now estimated that school-age children spend more time with screen media than in any other activity except sleeping. More information is available at www.screenfree.org.