Why We’re Encouraging You to Step Away From Your Screens
From April 29 to May 5, we’re encouraging everyone to minimize their time in front of a screen as much as possible. Why? Simple - that’s when Screen-Free Week takes place this year.
Originally known as “TV Turnoff Week” when the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood organized it in 1995, the idea behind the event was initially to reduce the amount of time children were exposed to the marketing that large corporations directed to them. However, as time has passed, it has become clear that screens themselves can become an issue for children if these children are left to their own devices, as it were.
The Effects of Screen Time on Different Age Groups
There is no denying that screens have only become more prevalent in our lives, as gadgets and gizmos of all kinds have started to sprout screens and connect us. How often have you felt the need to just take a break, as your technology seemed to be overwhelming?
How would you feel if you knew that the prevalence of technology can act as a similar stressor for those much younger than you?
Studies have shown that the use of screen-based devices have had ramifications across all age groups, starting from the very beginning. Did you know that on any day you care to select, 29 percent of babies under the age of one year old watch about an hour and a half of videos daily, and by the time they’re two, 64 percent are watching a smidge over two hours each day? By the time they’re in preschool, the average child spends 32 hours per week in front of a screen.
This has been associated with a few different effects on a young child, including:
- Irregular sleep patterns
- Increased aggression in early childhood
- Decreased educational achievement and attitudes
- Bullying by classmates
- Increased BMI and reduced activity levels
- Attention span issues
- Reduced meaningful interaction with parents
- Reduced creative playtime
- Screen-dependent habits
- Worse diets
- Higher likelihood of emotional issues
There is now even a diagnosable condition known as “Computer Vision Syndrome.” This condition summarizes a variety of vision and eye problems that arise due to the prolonged use of electronics, like headaches, eyestrain, dry eyes, blurred vision, and pain around the neck and shoulders. This is mostly seen in those who are at a computer continuously for two hours or more each day.
How to Minimize Screen Time
Naturally, none of this is great, especially considering the increased reliance that we have on technology for productivity in our day-to-day lives. Both the average working-age adult and the average child are more or less constantly surrounded by screens at this point - screens that are necessary for their work or education.
However, there are a great many leisure activities that don’t require the use of a screened device. Instead of the family plopping down for an evening of social media, promote some other pastimes that aren’t dependent on a device. These could include things like:
- Reading a book
- Drawing and doodling
- Walking around the neighborhood
- Playing a board game
- Listening to music
- Playing with a family pet
- Taking a class
- Picking up a hobby
- Playing outside
… I think you get the picture. Basically, instead of continuing to do what you have already done all day, take the initiative to try something different. Again, this doesn’t have to be any kind of big production - all it has to do is keep the devices from coming out.
Enforcing Screen Limits
As we’ve established, people of all ages can benefit from less time glued to their screens. However, this doesn’t mean that everyone will be receptive of this reduction. In order to successfully cut back on screen time, there are a few strategies that you may consider implementing.
1. Baby Steps
Sure, it may be Screen-Free Week, but that doesn’t mean that you necessarily have to quit your technology entirely. Instead of the cold-turkey approach, try setting new limits to when devices can and can’t be used. Maybe mobile devices need to be stowed after dinner, TV time is limited to one or two episodes or use an app to reduce social media time.
2. Keep Busy
Screen time is, by and large, woefully unproductive. Substituting the time spent staring at a screen with an activity that has an established benefit or positive outcome can help you ensure that time is being better spent. This approach offers the opportunity to improve oneself in multiple other ways - perhaps one day you spend your time exercising, while another day is the day you finally start that garden you’ve been planning.
One of the main reasons that we can be so attracted to our screens is simply the fact that they are so available. They are everywhere, from our homes to our workplaces to our pockets, and it is only too easy to turn one on. It almost requires no thought at all. To help counteract this, try to keep these devices in public areas - televisions and bedrooms don’t mix well. Furthermore, don’t be afraid to switch your devices over to “Do Not Disturb” when you’re actively engaged in another activity - an interrupting notification can very easily pull you back to your technology.
It really can’t be denied that we all spend far too much time in front of our devices - far more than we need to, at the very least. Sure, this may be a strange position for us to take - after all, we’re usually telling you how you can use your devices better, how you can get more work done.
However, we’re also the first ones to recognize that there are times that you need to unplug for a moment. Let’s all try to find as many of those moments as possible from April 29th to May 5th… and who knows, perhaps beyond that.
Check out this list of activities to try from the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood for some ideas on how to pass the time.