Special to the Times-Record
Families--try the unthinkable—go screen free for an entire week! April 30-May 6 is Screen Free Week. The Young People’s Healthy Heart Program at Mercy Hospital is inviting any family who would like to go ‘screen free’ to call them at 845-6456 for more information and ideas.
Why go ‘screen free’? The facts are amazing. Students ages 8-18 spend 7 hours each day in front of a screen:
* an average of 4.5 hours watching TV,
*1.5 hours using computers (outside of homework),
*over one hour playing video games.
“So much time spent in front of the screen can be habit-forming,” states Andrea Winter, licensed registered dietitian at the Young People’s Healthy Heart Program at Mercy Hospital. “The more time children engage with screens, the harder time they have turning them off as older children and teens.”
Toddler screen time is associated with problems in later childhood, including lower math and school achievement, and a higher body weight.
= Another proven fact is that children with a TV in their bedroom are more likely to be overweight. An amazing fact is that 40% of 3-month old infants are regular viewers of screen media, and 19% of babies 1 year and under have a TV in their bedroom.
The benefits of reduced screen time are numerous. Less screen time helps to prevent childhood obesity. Research has shown that children consume 167 more calories for each hour of TV they watch.
The flip side is that the more screen time a child has, the less physical activity they do. The U.S. Surgeon General and the American Heart Association recommend that children and teens get 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity each day.
Children who spend less time watching TV in the early years tend to do better in school, have a healthier diet, be more physically active, and are better able to engage in school work in later elementary school, reports the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.
Last year the Darla and James Schroeder family took the ‘Screen-Free’ challenge. Darla admitted that she is the most connected to screen time (using facebook, email, surfing and more) and had the biggest adjustment. The family home schools their four children, who use the computer to learn Spanish, which they did continue during that week. They re-directed their screen time to more outdoor activities and indoor board games.
“When adults make the screen free commitment their kids also see that the whole family is taking it seriously. They recognize the value of doing other activities, and it allows for more family time,” Winter states.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for children under the age of two, and less than two hours a day for older children and teens.
The Young People’s Healthy Heart Program at Mercy Hospital encourages families to check out this website for more information (www.screenfree.org ) or contact them at 845-6456.