How many of you check the internet before you get out of bed in the morning? Using your smart phone or tablet to help you check on the weather, or read the latest headlines. What about right before you go to bed, watching TV to decompress from your day? There are so many ways that screens are involved in our lives and the lives of our children and grandchildren.  That’s why every year, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood hosts a national Screen-Free Week.
     Screen-Free Week is a way for thousands of schools, libraries, and community groups nationwide to join in a coordinated effort to encourage millions of Americans to turn off televisions, computers, and video games for seven days and turn on the world around them.  Screen-Free Week is a chance for children to read, play, think, create, be more physically active, and to spend more time with friends and family.

     Screen-Free Week is a much needed respite from the screen media dominating the lives of so many children.  Now, more than ever, it’s imperative that we help children discover the joys of life beyond screens. On average, preschool children spend over four and a half hours a day consuming screen media, while older children spend over seven hours a day including multitasking.  Excessive screen time is linked to a number of problems for children, including childhood obesity, poor school performance, and problems with attention span.

    If you need some ideas on what you can do to help change your family’s screen-use habits, try some of these changes:

Create a screen-free zone in the home. Establish one spot for storing and recharging everyone’s handheld devices. Gather the family and come up with a list of alternative activities to sitting in front of a screen. Jot down lots of ideas and post them on the refrigerator. Make changes gradually. Set limits. Experts recommend no more than two hours a day of recreational TV, computers, video games and DVDs for kids. Know what your children, of any age, are watching on TV, doing on the internet and seeing on their smartphones. Ask them open-ended questions about what they’re seeing and doing. Ask them whom they are communicating with when emailing and texting. Take TVs out of bedrooms. Sleeping with the TV on, even with the sound off, can disrupt sleep patterns and contribute to fatigue. During meals, turn off the TV and put away other distracting screens and electronic devices. Instead of using them, talk about everyone’s day. Keep the TV and other screens off unless someone is watching them.

    These are just a few ways to make changes in the screen usage in your home.  If you are up to the challenge, try 7 days screen free. Take the challenge and see what positive changes are in store for your family.