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Mainers Encouraged to Turn Off the TV: It's Screen-Free Week

Mainers are urged this week to get their kids outside by getting them to forego the seven hours a day most kids spend watching TVs or computer screens. (Mike Clifford)
Mainers are urged this week to get their kids outside by getting them to forego the seven hours a day most kids spend watching TVs or computer screens. (Mike Clifford)
May 2, 2016

AUGUSTA, Maine - With all the smartphones, tablets, computers and video games around, it's easy to forget that there is life beyond a screen.

It's Screen-Free Week, a time to rediscover some of the joys of being unplugged.

Josh Golin, executive director with the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, says turning off screens can shift the focus to more engaging activities, which can improve well-being and relationships.

"We want to get people to stop looking at those screens and start looking at each other because we have so much to offer each other," Golin says.

While the idea of having their children go screen-free might send parents into a panic, Golin says they might be surprised by the result.

"Kids are much more imaginative at coming up with activities than we give them credit for these days," says Golin. "So if we can start to break that habit, as the second we're bored reach for the tablet or turn on the video-game system, we'd be amazed at the ways that kids can entertain themselves."

Excessive use of screens is linked to attention problems, poor school performance, sleep problems and emotional difficulties among children.

Golin says because kids are always watching their parents, it's important that good habits are practiced in the home.

"So that means when we're having conversations, we're not distracted looking at our phones. That means we're not bringing our devices to the dining room table," says Golin. "We're absolutely not glancing at our phones when we're on the road because our children will be driving someday and we don't want to model that behavior as well."

Experts discourage screen time for children under age two, and for other kids no more than two hours a day of educational programming. But research shows eight to 18 year olds spend about seven hours using screen media every day.

More on the web at screenfree.org.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - ME