Turn off that Screen!
Amy Movius, MD
April 21, 2009
You may not know it, but we are in the second day of national “Turnoff” week! The challenge is to not use any screens for recreational purposes for one week. Television, computers, video games, iPods and cell phones are all included. It is sponsored by the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, among other organizations.
In America, we average more televisions per household than people. The typical American spends over four hours daily watching television and another 4 hours on the computer – not counting work. This encourages a sedentary and isolated lifestyle. By turning off the screens, time is now available for other activities such as thinking, reading, reconnecting with friends and family, and those things we never seem to have “time” to get done.
The youngest members of our society bear special consideration. The American Academy of Pediatrics has long held that no television or electronic media is appropriate for children less than two years of age. Despite this, 70 percent of daycare centers use TVs on a typical day and one in four of these children have televisions in their bedrooms at home! The more time preschoolers spend watching TV, the less well they do academically and socially on entering first grade.
Turning off the screen is good for the body as well as the mind. Time spent in front of a screen is generally time spent not moving much. Again, our children bear special consideration. For preschool children (1-4yrs), the risk of being overweight increases by 6 percenter per hour of television watched per day. If there is a television in their bedroom, their risk of being overweight increases by 31 percent per hour of television watched daily. Children six and under spend about the same amount of time using screens (2 hours) as they do playing outside, and much more that they spend reading or being read to. An overweight child is likely to be sentenced to a lifetime of health issues, since more than 75 percent of overweight 10 year olds will become obese adults.
Nothing is required to participate in “turnoff” week except a willingness to try and temporarily forgo media entertainment. There is another national Turnoff week scheduled for September 20-26 though you can do your own week anytime! Instead of missing the screen, you may be surprised to discover what you’ve really been missing all along.
Center for Screen-time Awareness, www.screentime.org
American Academy of Pediatrics, www.aap.org