Editor’s note: This article was updated in October 2015.
I loooves me some TV, so it may sound strange that I am participating in Screen-Free Week—starting today. For the next seven days, crazy people like me will be shunning their “devil boxes” in an effort to turn off TV and turn on life.
What’s so wrong with too much screentime, you ask? Well, according to the nonprofit group that organizes Screen-Free Week:
- Time with screens increases rapidly in the early years. Between their first and second birthday, on any given day, 64% of babies and toddlers are watching TV and videos, averaging slightly over 2 hours.
- Screen time can be habit-forming: the more time children engage with screens, the harder time they have turning them off as they become older children.
- Screen media exposure is highest among low-income, African-American, and Latino children.
- Time with screens is an important risk factor for childhood obesity in both low-risk and highrisk populations.
- Screen time is linked to sleep disturbance in 6- to 12-year-olds.
- 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.
- Children with 2 or more hours of daily screen time are more likely to have increased psychological difficulties, including hyperactivity, emotional and conduct problems, and difficulties with peers.
- Children who spend less time watching television in early years tend to do better in school, have a healthier diet, be more physically active, and be better able to engage in schoolwork in later elementary school.
- Some screen media has proven to be beneficial to older children, but many products heavily marketed as educational make claims unsubstantiated by research.
- For young children, interactive books, or “e-books,” have been linked to lower levels of story understanding and may hinder aspects of emergent literacy.
They’ve got scads of research to back up these claims. Check out these fact sheets if you want details.
Now I don’t want to go hardcore-no TV-ever, but I do want our household to try life without the TV for a while. What might we do differently as a family? Could it even have a positive effect on us? Would we eat a meal together and just talk (or babble) instead of watch TV???
Who knows? I’m just looking at this week as an experiment. At the end, I’ll let you know how it went.
Replace screentime with _____
Looking to take a family break from screens at your house? Check out these ideas of what to do instead, courtesy of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood:
- Paint a picture, a mural or a room.
- Make cookies, bread or jam and share with a neighbor.
- Learn about a different culture. Have an international dinner.
- Convert an old television set into a fish tank (like the one shown above).
- Go bird watching. Learn the names of local birds.
- Climb a tree.
- Learn to use a compass.
- Go to a museum.
- Collect recycling and drop it off at a recycling center.
- Look for treasures at a yard sale.
On the move
- Play Frisbee.
- Go roller skating or ice skating.
- Learn yoga.
Get the full printable list of 101 Screen-Free Activities from Screenfree.org.