Screen-Free…You and Me

How many hours does your child spend in front of a screen? Factoring in smart phone, video game, computer, and television time, the average child today spends 7 hours with electronic media. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises parents to wait until a child is at least 2 before allowing any screen time. Older children and teens should be limited to 1-2 hours per day. The AAP recommends that every home have a “screen-free zone” where there are no electronic devices. Ideally, bedrooms and dining areas should have no computers, televisions or video game consoles.

growing up socialThe Johns Hopkins Medicine online library includes information on school-aged children’s developmental milestones as well as television guidelines. Children learn and enjoy so many new skills and activities as they grow. Watching television to the exclusion of playing, reading, doing crafts and spending time with friends narrows a child’s world. When they do watch television, children benefit from watching with their parents so they can discuss what they see. Selecting kid-appropriate shows allows parents to guide their children toward the highest quality programming. Most children spend 3 hours per day watching television. This is time that could instead be spent participating in sports, exploring nature, writing a poem, playing a new board game or discovering an amazing author.

Excess screen time has been associated with poor school performance, attention deficit disorder, and obesity in children. Increased exposure to social media platforms places children at higher risk of bullying, anxiety disorders, depression, suicidal ideation, and dangerous behavior. We are all so busy that it is already challenging to get enough sleep. Using electronic devices before bedtime, however, can make it more difficult for children to fall asleep and contributes to sleep disorders.

screen free activitiesAs parents, we can promote reading, creative play, and activities that use the imagination. We can model limited use of electronic devices with our own behavior. We should show true interest in our childrens’ school and free time plans and encourage open communication. Family activities such as hiking, card games, art projects, and making music are great ways to spend time together. The HCLS collection includes many books about travelling with kids. For some local adventure, check out Fun with the Family in Maryland: Hundreds of Ideas for Day Trips with the Kids and Day Trips in Delmarva. HCLS has so many wonderful books filled with ideas for family entertainment. Take a look at Project Kid:  100 Ingenius Crafts for Family Fun, 150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kids:  The Very Best and Easiest Playtime Activities from, and Unbored:  The Essential Field Guide to Serious Fun. All include imaginative play and craft ideas for all ages. Enjoy some time being a screen-free family.

Cherise Tasker is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Central Branch and has a background in health information. Most evenings, Cherise can be found reading a book, attending a book club meeting, or coordinating a book group.