This week is National Screen-Free Week. I’ll be honest and tell you that this is no problem in our home. We currently have no TV, primarily because it is very low on our list of priorities to spend money on right now. My kids enjoy watching things every now and then, but it is not a normal, daily activity. And since we have to wait for Daddy’s computer to be home, we often go weeks at a time without watching anything. I would be lying if I didn’t say that sometimes I would love nothing more than to be able to sit my kids down to watch a 20 minute show so I could get my shower in peace. Most of the time, however, we hardly notice. We fill our time with a lot more interesting and certainly more beneficial things.
Since watching TV is passive, it is obviously not the best way for a child to spend their time. There are many other great things to do that are much better for your kids. TV is certainly an enjoyable activity, and sometimes can even be educational. It is, though, very easy for the TV to become a babysitter and before we know it our kids are sitting in front of it watching “just one show” multiple times a day.
The Turn Off Your TV website lists these facts about TV watching in America:
- Number of 30-second commercials seen in a year by an average child: 20,000
- Number of minutes per week that parents spend in meaningful conversation with their children: 38.5
- Number of minutes per week that the average child watches television: 1,680
- Percentage of children ages 6-17 who have TV’s in their bedrooms: 50
- Percentage of day care centers that use TV during a typical day: 70
- Hours per year the average American youth spends in school: 900 hours
- Hours per year the average American youth watches television: 1500
- Percentage of Americans that regularly watch television while eating dinner: 66
These facts are disturbing, but not shocking. In many homes the TV is on all day with little thought. The fact that children spend over 1600 minutes a week watching TV and only 38 minutes a week talking with their parents is sad. I am not naive enough to think, however, that simply turning off the TV for a week will make parents talk more to their kids. It is not that simple.
The positive to this week is largely in its publicity to alert parents to how much TV their kids are really watching. That is a great benefit. I hope that if you participate, you will be aware of how easy it is to turn to the TV for your babysitting.
The negative to this week, though, is that I am afraid parents won’t actually make a mindful switch in habits. It might be easy to think that if you have done your duty for a week you are good, and then go back to your regular TV watching habits.
My challenge to you would be to actually mindfully change some habits. Use this week to break the habit, evaluate how much your kids actually do watch TV, and then make mindful changes. Set some times in the day when the TV does not get turned on at all. And stick to those even after this week.
- Outside: a park, sidewalk chalk, bubbles, go on a walk, teach your child to throw a football, garden.
- Books: go to the library and pick out some new books, start a new chapter book read aloud.
- Creativity: play-dough (My Favorite Play-Dough Recipe.), paint, draw, craft.
- Kitchen: bake or cook with your kids.
- Interactive: play a board game, role play, build and create with Legos or blocks.
Oh, and talk to your kids more than 38.5 minutes this week.
It is estimated that by the time our children are 70 they will have spent 7 to 10 years of their lives watching TV. Don’t let your child be in that average. There are much better things to be doing.
Are you participating in Screen-Free Week? Whether you eliminate it completely, or try to cut back, what activities do you plan to do with your kids this week instead of watching TV?