ST. LOUIS, Mo. – This is Screen-Free Week, an annual effort by children’s advocates to get kids free from the grip of electronic devices – if only for a few days. Started in 1996 as “TV-Turnoff,” it is now hosted by the Campaign for Commercial Free Childhood (CCFC) and promoted by dozens of groups around the country.
Toni Riedel, communications director, Early Years Institute, said the idea is to get kids’ noses out of Nintendos, Play Stations, smart phones, tablets and TVs and encourage them to read, explore nature, spend time with friends and family – or just go outside and play.
“When we were young, we were outside playing,” Riedel said. “We were what’s called ‘free-range children.’ Today, kids are tied to screens. You know, we’re in such a technology-oriented society.”
According to the CCFC, some studies show that, on average, preschoolers spend 32 hours a week enthralled by screened entertainment.
Dr. Susan Linn, CCFC director, said when her group took over hosting “TV-Turnoff” three years ago, they changed the name because TV was not the only “bad guy” anymore.
“It’s not even that screens are necessarily ‘bad guys’ – except for babies,” Linn explained, “but it’s just that there’s too much of them in our lives, and way too much of them in children’s lives, and it’s important to take a break.”
Riedel pointed out that for children from birth to at least age 2, every week should be screen-free.
“The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends for children under 2, no screen media, no television,” she said.
Adults, too, are encouraged to take the “Screen-Free Week” pledge to swear off TV and DVDs for a week and only use that laptop or smart phone when it is required for work. Of course, they will have to look online to get the pledge – but then they should step away from the screen until May 5.
More information is available at www.commercialfreechildhood.org.