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Picture of phone screen, tablet screen, computer screen and television screenCan you and your family go a week without looking at screens when you’re not at work or school?

This is National Screen-Free Week. Most of us have our cell phones handy at all times.  We text, email or connect to social media without thinking about it.  Our children are playing games, watching videos and messaging others on their phones or tablets.  Plus the television blares in the background whether anyone is watching or not.  In fact, 52% of moms think they check their phones too often with 45% of children saying their parent checks their phone too often.

Can’t go screen-free for the week?  How about cutting back? The average child watches more than 2,300 hours of television each year, but only spends about 1,200 hours in school.  “We Can!” has a nice chart to print off to record the amount of time or times different screens are used.  Try these to limit screen time:

  • No screen zones in the bedrooms, only allow televisions and computers in the family room.  Park cell phones for the night in the family room before going to bed.
  • Set limits for watching television, playing video games, and using the computer, tablet, or cell phone.
  • No television or other screens during dinner. Talk to each other.
  • When watching television don’t just sit there, get up and move, at least during commercials.
  • Don’t use the television or other screens as a punishment or reward.

Screen time often limits the time children play creatively or communicate with the people around them.  Children need to explore their world through play using their imagination and curiosity.  This helps them gain skills of creativity which helps with problem-solving.  Communication skills suffer due to too much time spent watching screens and not interacting face-to-face with others.  Too much screen time has also been linked to an increase in obesity.

Try some of these 101 Screen-Free Activities:Picture of little girl blowing bubbles outside

  • Play outside – play a game of catch or Frisbee, jump rope, blow bubbles, sidewalk chalk
  • Paint a picture
  • Clean up or redecorate your room
  • Read a book
  • Learn a skill – cooking, change the oil in a car, craftingPicture of boys jumping in the air outside
  • Make dinner together
  • Play cards, charades or board games
  • Go for a walk or ride bikes
  • Study sign language
  • Put together puzzles, legos
  • Go bird watching
  • Plant a gardenPicture of two girls playing in the sand
  • Go through closets and donate items not used or have a garage sale
  • Listen to the radio and dance to the music
  • Sing songs together

Enjoy time together! Have some fun!

Author:  Pat Brinkman, Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Educator, Ohio State University

Reviewer:Tammy Jones, Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Educator, Ohio State University

References:

Action for Healthy Kids. (2019). Skip the Screen.  Available at http://www.actionforhealthykids.org/storage/documents/pdfs/tipsheets-may-2018/ght-skip-screen-eng-span-bleedsfixed-091117.pdf

National Institutes of Health.  (2018). We Can!  Available at https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/wecan/downloads/screen-time-log.pdf

Screen Free.  (2018). 101 Screen Free Activities. Available at https://www.screenfree.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/101-Screen-Free-Activities.pdf

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