A school age child may spend more hours watching television, phone and computer screens this year than going to school.
A CBS News reports that children ages 8 to 18 use an average of 7 hours per day of screen time, or over 2500 hours per year, versus 900 hours of school time per year for our children.
The trend is for newborns to have televisions in their rooms. In America, it is not unusual for a television to be in every room of a home. In a typical American household the TV is on 7 hours and 40 minutes per day. Let’s not forget the big screen televisions that have larger than life projection. Our home computers in many ways are more entertainment than work tools, as we surf the net and play computer games. During a recent visit to a public library’s computer section, I observed seven out of the ten monitors with card games on the screens.
Watching television, which includes video and computer games, and now our telephones, impacts our health, our literacy abilities and undermines family values.
Obesity is becoming a health epidemic in our country, with TV watching a strong factor in being overweight. Forty percent of American families report eating dinner while watching TV. Literacy rates of 12th graders who watch 6 or more hours of TV a day, compared to those who only watch one hour per day, showed a rate of 14% proficiency for the 6 hour per day watchers and a rate of 52% for the one-hour viewers. Research studies over the past forty years also show a correlation between watching media violence and committing real acts of violence, weakening the influence of family ethics.
Turn off our televisions and our computers for a week? Give up our phones while we’re home? What would we do?
It is hard to ignore the itch to turn on the TV, surf the net, or check your e-mail, when a moment of boredom appears. Boredom passes, if we let it, and often leads to creativity. Prepare for boredom by keeping a list of fun activities on the refrigerator. For children under the age of six, having puzzles, art supplies and building blocks available will keep minds and hands occupied. For older children, books, board games and art supplies can be tedium and time busters.
With a week of no screen time, consider cooking dinners together as a family and reading a book out loud. The classics, Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain and A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle are two of my favorite read aloud books. They appeal to a wide age range from about six years to adult. The books also lend themselves to family discussions about ethics, decision making, being different and growing up.
Turn off your TV and do those things you say you’re going to do and never have the time. Bike ride, star gaze, invite neighbors over for dinner or dessert, have a sing-a-long, go to a concert or play, dance, exercise. Once you let your imagination go, I think you’ll have some fun.
Plan ahead and turn off your television during Screen Free Week, May 4- 10, 2020.
I hope you’ll find what I found; something I didn’t realize was missing.
For more information and ideas for reducing screen time, visit https://www.screenfree.org