Rediscover the joys of life beyond the screen during Screen-Free Week May 1-7. Plan to unplug from digital media and spend time playing, daydreaming, creating, exploring, reading, and connecting with family and friends.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) defines “screen time” as time spent using digital media for entertainment purposes. Other uses of media, such as completing homework online, don’t count as screen time. Parents play an important role in helping children and teens navigate the media environment and recognize the difference between constructive media options and those that are used for recreation and entertainment.
Within the last year, the AAP revised their recommendations for the amount of screen time for children. Previously, the screen time guidelines were set only for children over the age of two, but research proves babies are very vulnerable to screens.
Before turning on the TV for your fussy six month old, you may want to give him a toy instead to keep occupied. According to the AAP, infants up to 18 months should not be exposed to any digital media or screen time. Young baby brains need human interactions and live presentations rather than those available on television or tablets. The more face-to-face interaction children have with their parents and other adults, especially eye contact, the more beneficial it is for infants’ brain development.
Screen time can create a disconnect between the parent and child. If parents’ attention is fixed on a TV, phone, or tablet screen, babies are deprived of that attention. If the baby is repeatedly neglected in favor of digital media, children may develop behavioral issues in the future.
On average, preschoolers spend more than four and a half hours per day of screen time. According to the most recent AAP recommendation, preschoolers should be limited to one hour of screen time daily and that hour should be engaged with high-quality educational options including television programs and applications.
School-age children spend more than seven hours a day in front of a screen, and to some, this may seem harmless. However, AAP research demonstrates excessive screen time is linked to a number of problems for children, including childhood obesity, poor school performance, and problems with attention span. Unfortunately, many children would rather watch TV and play videogames than go outside and play or participate in sports. The current AAP recommendation does not set a time limit for school-age children, but rather encourages prioritizing productive time over entertainment time.
For typical kids, an average day consists of school, homework time, at least one hour of physical activity, social interactions, and at least 10 hours of sleep. Whatever time remains can be screen time. Kids and teens have access to thousands of apps, video-streaming sites, videogames and social media, and own multiple devices, so it’s important to keep track of their screen time.
So for the week of May 1-7, take the challenge. Turn off your screens and enjoy your family time. You’ll be surprised at all the fun you can have by forgoing screen-time during Screen-Free Week. Try riding bikes, taking a walk, reading a book, playing board games, cooking dinner, eating together, or learning a new craft. Visit a nearby metropark or go to the library.
For more ideas on how to have fun as a family without screens and for activities available at the Toledo Lucas County Public Library and Toledo Area Metroparks during Screen-Free Week, visit the Kohl’s Kids in Action website at www.kohlskidsinaction.org.❦