At our last business meeting of the school year in May, our staff presented us with some very compelling and concerning information regarding kids and screen time. Much of what we discussed is located in this blog. They then challenged us to pledge different ways that could “Unplug and Play” when faced with the adversity of the summertime heat, doldrums, and the need to just get things done as parents. While it’s particularly important in the summer when school is out of session, much of this can still be applied to the school year, especially for our preschoolers who may not attend every day of the week or all day. We hope we can inspire you to hit the “off switch” a little more and some reasons to do so!
Some Things to Think About
- The American Academy of Pediatrics and the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity recommend discouraging any screen time for children under the age of two, and less than two hours a day of educational programming for older children.
- Currently 29% of babies under 1 have 90 minutes of screen time a day
- 64% of 1 year olds have two hours of screen time a day
- Preschoolers average 2.2-4.6 hours a day of screen time
- Screen time can negatively affect children’s sleep patterns. Screen time for children under 3 is linked to irregular sleep patterns. Kids aged up to 12 who spend less time with screens fall asleep faster, sleep longer, and have more energy.
- Children with more screen time are less likely to have healthy emotional attachments. They are more likely to display aggressive behavior and are more likely to engage in “risky behaviors” when they get older.
More Things to Think About
- Screen time undermines learning for preschoolers: Screen time for children under three is linked to delayed language acquisition. The more time preschool children spend with screens, the less time they spend engaged in creative play and constructive problem solving. They are also spending less time interacting with their parents or caregivers, which is essential for learning.
- Older children are also at risk from excessive screen time. 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 with 3 or more hours are at risk for poor grades and long term academic failure.
- Screen time is a risk factor for childhood obesity. For each hour of television viewing per day, children consume an additional 167 calories. TV viewing among two- to four-year old children predicts increased intake of high-energy, low-nutrient foods.
- Video game playing increases food intake. Children who own active video games such as the Wii do not show an increase of physical activity.
- Excessive screen time is linked to increased psychological difficulties that include hyperactivity, emotional and conduct problems, and difficulties with peers
“Disneyland is always one of our favorite ways.”
“He is missing the Co-op so much that he made his own -mud bog-“
What to do Instead of Screen Time?
- Summer Time Screen Time (download checklist here)
- No TV Tuesdays
- Screen Free Car Rides
- Device-Free Dinners
- Screen-Free Mornings (download checklist here)
- Planned and Spontaneous PLAY!
“This child is mastering her scissors as you can see. She could cut for long stretches (also apparent!) There have been several occasions of periods of quiet only to find something FUN to clean up- but in the end I’ll take that over screen time.”
“Painting with siblings.”
Have a Healthy Media Diet
As parents, we are always trying to work ourselves out of a job. Rather than controlling and cajoling our children, we want to guide them towards making positive, healthy choices in their lives. Managing our family’s screen time is one way that we can make a huge difference in our children’s lives. We also need to remember to model this by being very conscience about our own use of screen time. When we “unplug”, we:
- promote connection
- encourage creativity
- endorse active learning
- talk more and argue less
- model healthy choices
Screen time can be helpful- we all use screens in our daily lives to help make our lives more efficient, to connect with people far away, to access news, for work, and for entertainment. We encourage you to have a healthy media diet for yourselves and your families…choose when you will have screen time, and what type of screen time. Set specific times to unplug and reconnect with your family. We do not need to be “connected” all the time- we can all benefit from taking time to see and interact with the world around us!
“They made up a trick or treat game where they take turns knocking on the pantry door, announcing their imaginary costume and giving each other “candy” (which is actually Legos).”
“Building and creating with Legos.”
For more information or ideas, please visit:
Perspective: Doing Nothing is Something by Anna Quindlan
(Hint: An easy way to use checklists is to put them in a cheap frame and attach a dry erase marker. Children can mark off as they go, and you can erase and reuse the next day!)
What will your family to do unplug?
Send your fun “UNPLUGGED” photos or ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment with your ideas below.