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Posts Tagged ‘screen-free activities’

A person using a laptop with a smart phone within reach

If there has ever been a time when we have realized the communication opportunities and flexibility that online platforms can provide, it is now. Many of us who are working from home are now using technology in ways we would never have dreamed of just a few short weeks ago. For some, telehealth visits have replaced traveling to see doctors and specialists in their offices. And many have been keeping in touch with friends and family using mobile phones or tablets. 

But even with all the productivity while staying at home, you have most likely experienced technology overload as well. Each year during the first week of May, the Campaign for Commercial Free Childhood promotes “Screen Free Week.” In response to our current situation, this year they have instead changed to “Screen Free Saturdays,” encouraging families to rest their eyes and minds from the screens of televisions, tablets, laptops and phones. 

Some call it unplugging. Some refer to it as digital detoxing. Whatever the name, it is a purposeful act of refraining from or limiting our exposure to digital technology for a specified time. Dr. Scott Becker is the director of the Michigan State University Counseling Center and specializes in researching the impact of digital technology on mental health. His research has found that the overuse of digital technology can impact sleep, memory, attention span, capacity to learn, stress, identity and relationships.

The overuse of digital technology can impact sleep, memory, attention span, capacity to learn, identity, intimacy and empathy.

Here are some practical ways to be intentional and mindful about your use of electronic devices this season:

  • Take some time to reflect on the ways you use technology in your daily life. What kinds of habits do you have now that you didn’t three months ago?
  • If you are on a screen often during your workday, follow the 20-20-20 rule from the American Optometric Association. Every 20 minutes look at something at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds to prevent eye strain. You could set a timer or there are apps like “Break Time” on Google Chrome that will pop up on your screen to remind you take a break. 
  • When you are indoors, mimic natural outdoor conditions by exposing yourself to bright light during the day, dim light in the evening and darkness at night. Our bodies are designed to respond to light in this way. Studies show you could improve your sleep by staying off electronic devices close to bedtime. And check out the settings on your phone or tablet to automatically adjust to a warmer color at night.
  • Increase productivity and focus by managing your phone use and email response. While at work, turn off email notifications and establish certain times to check and respond to email rather than immediately responding to that urgent ding. Designate times to check your phone, especially while working on important projects.
  • Set times in the evening or on the weekend that you could designate as screen-free, choosing to spend time outside, with family, or engaged in a hobby instead of a screen.

Here’s wishing you Digital Wellness this coming week!

Written by: Emily Marrison, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Coshocton County

Reviewed by: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Franklin County

Sources:

Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood https://commercialfreechildhood.org/

Stateside Podcast (2017). Just about everyone is addicted to screens. What can we do about it? https://www.michiganradio.org/post/just-about-everyone-addicted-screens-what-can-we-do-about-it

American Optometric Association (2016) Save your vision month: Counsel patients about digital eye strain in the workplace. https://www.aoa.org/news/clinical-eye-care/save-your-vision-month-counsel-patients-about-digital-eye-strain-in-the-workplace-

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (2012). Light from self-luminous tablet computers can affect evening melatonin, delaying sleep. https://news.rpi.edu/luwakkey/3074

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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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