Can We Be Screen-Free-ish for a Week?

Turn Off the ComputerFor three years Long Island Parent magazine has been a media sponsor of Screen-Free Week, organized by the Early Years Institute (EYI) in Plainview. The idea is to limit–not eliminate–the time you and your children spend watching TV and using technology, including hand-held devices. Instead, we recommend that you and your children get out and play. The event takes place April 29 through May 5, and there are many organizations and businesses on Long Island who are supporting the week by offering fun alternatives and discounts to play places and activities. To take the pledge and find out about all the things to do, visit www.eyi.org/screen-free. You should also take a look at our events all week on our site, http://www.nymetroparents.com/

Now I know what some of you are thinking. I’ve heard it all before, like how can I tell you to be screen-free and then direct you to websites? (You can also read our print magazines for events.) The fact is that most of us can’t get through a day for economic reasons, like our jobs, without using a computer. And our children are now required in so much of their schooling to use computers as well. No one is suggesting that you or they stop doing that. But what we are saying is that because we must spend so much of our time in front of a screen, we all take a step back and become aware of how many times it’s not a necessity, but rather a habit. Think of it this way: We all need to eat, but when we really pay attention to our eating habits, chances are there are things we can eliminate from our diets and still feel satisfied. The idea behind Screen-Free Week is similar. It’s about taking stock and looking for alternative activities for your children.

Through our articles, you’ve read all about the increased childhood obesity, sleep disturbance and attention span issues that are attributed in part to increased time spent with technology. These are real issues that we didn’t have to grapple with as children. And yet, each year when we introduce Screen-Free Week, I’m amazed by how many parents respond with hostility. Screen-Free Week isn’t about judging parenting skills. It’s simply about awareness. As parents we constantly have to readjust what we’re doing for and with our kids. This is just one more way. Besides, as fun as that computer or iPad game may be, there are much cheaper and physically active things for kids to be doing. Do you remember how much fun it was to play with a cardboard refrigerator box? Don’t your children deserve the opportunity to do so as well?

Try taking the pledge. It’s just one week, and there’s lots of support and ideas from the EYI to help you through. Even one day of awareness can make a difference. The families who have participated before tell us how much fun it turned out to be. Besides, one of our biggest supporters is Computer Associates, the technology company. If they can buy into the week, hopefully parents can too. Let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear from you.

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