I took away my 6-year-old’s “screen time” yesterday and it had nothing to do with Screen Free Week. It was more of a discipline tactic because he wasn’t listening and, let me tell you, it worked wonders. (I mean, really, imagine if someone took away your screen time for an entire day.) The bad news is that my child threw a major hissy fit. The good news is that we took him and his little brother to the park instead. They ran around like crazy, flew up and down the slides, played tag. We bypassed the dreaded witching hour altogether and I thought, “Holy shit, I’m doing this every night!”
The truth is, my husband and I usually do take our kids to the park after dinner in the warmer months, though we’ll often rush back in time for their 30 minutes of TV (because god-forbid they don’t watch 30 minutes of TV before getting into bed). But yesterday’s little visit to the park reminded me of being a kid myself and playing on the street with the neighbors ’til the sun went down. We’d skateboard down the driveway; ride our bikes; play street hockey. It was always the best part of the day, and I rarely thought about what TV shows I might be missing in the process.
Oh, how times of changed. It’s partially my fault and partially the result of it being 2012 but, wow, are my kids ever obsessed with screen time. I try and limit it to one hour per day (30 minutes in the morning, 30 in the evening), but it always ends up being more. I know I’m not alone; almost all my friends worry that their kids are getting too much screen time, and yet they can’t seem to control it (especially when they themselves are glued to their iPhones).
I plan to share with them (and you) this infograph (below) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Called “Screen Time vs Lean Time,” it clearly outlines just how much time kids are spending in the front of a screen. For me, personally, it’s a real eye-opener. For example, kids aged 11-14 are spending an average of nine hours a day in front of a screen, and nearly five of those are spent watching TV (!). The 8-10 set spends around six hours in front of a screen, four of which are spent in front of the TV. With obesity on the rise, these figures aren’t to be taken likely.
What I like is how the CDC offers ideas for what children should be doing instead (activities like skateboarding, basketball, even taking the dog for a walk). They also remind us to limit kids’ total screen time to no more than 1-2 hours per day, which seems reasonable (read: doable). It all might seem rather obvious, but it’s always nice to have a reminder – just as I did last night with my whole screen-free discipline technique – that kids are better off outside, being active.