Saturday, April 28, 2012

Screen-Free Week 2012: April 30 - May 6

By Teacher Annie Castle Deckert

Screen-Free Week:  What a concept!  When my kids were little, I sort of “knew” that TV-watching wasn’t the best way for my children to spend their time.  But what I didn’t understand is that kids who watch less TV (or better yet, no TV) become better and better at the thing they need most: play.

Twenty years ago, while agreeing in principle with the idea of spending a screen-free week with my preschoolers, I’m sure I would have been slightly horrified at the thought of a week without even a minute to myself.  Like many other parents, I used the TV as a babysitter.  A couple of kids’ shows everyday gave me time to catch up on something, take a shower, or just hear myself think.  I didn’t realize then that an hour of TV everyday was making my kids more needy and demanding.  I was a tired, struggling mom with busy, active kids, like most preschool moms I know.  And yet, I’m challenging YOU to try committing to Screen-Free Week.

One nugget of wisdom I’ve acquired: Television and other screen-related activities reduce children’s ability to think and create.  This results in kids who are more whiny, more bored, and more unhappy than nature intended.  Children who aren't used to being entertained don't miss it---because they are expert at entertaining themselves.  A child who has a steady diet of TV, movies, and video games has less faith in his or her own imagination, and finds it more difficult to play.  Honestly: if I had it to do over again, I’d get rid of the TV when my kids were young.

Diane Levin is an expert on the effect that media has on children and has authored several well-known books about it, including "So Sexy So Soon", "The War Play Dilemma" and "Remote Control Childhood."   Here is what she has to say about Screen-Free Week:

Screen-Free Week is a fun and innovative way to improve children's well-being by reducing dependence on entertainment screen media, including television, video games, computers, and hand-held devices.  It's a time for children to unplug and play outside, read, daydream, create, explore, and spend more time with family and friends.  And, of course, Screen-Free Week isn't just about snubbing screens for seven days; it's a springboard for important lifestyle changes that will improve well-being and quality of life all year round. 

Other info and expert commentary can be found at:

I would encourage parents to give their kids a break from electronic media, even if the first few days may be a bit frustrating.  Kids often fuss at first about the things that are best for them.  But parents who are willing to persist through the whining will eventually be rewarded with the joy of watching their kids play, create, converse, learn, and explore.  Even movies, video games, and TV shows that are supposedly designed for children offer very few opportunities for any of these high-quality, brain-enriching screen-free experiences.  Screen time is always inferior to real life, in terms of satisfying learning experiences.

On my blog, you’ll find a long list of things you can have your kids do instead of watching TV or playing video games:

Happy Screen-Free Week,
Teacher Annie