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Fewer Screens, More “Free-Range Children”

GRAPHIC: Children  and adults  are urged to resist the tantalizing images on entertainment screens for one week, starting April 29th. Courtesy CCFC.
GRAPHIC: Children and adults are urged to resist the tantalizing images on entertainment screens for one week, starting April 29th. Courtesy CCFC.
April 29, 2013

PORTLAND, Maine - Today is the first day of Screen-Free Week, an annual effort by children's advocates to get kids free from the grip of electronic devices - if only for a few days. Started in 1996 as "TV-Turnoff," it is now hosted by the Boston-based Campaign for Commercial Free Childhood (CCFC) and promoted by hundreds of groups around the country.

The idea behind Screen-Free Week is to get kids' noses out of Nintendos, Play Stations, smart phones, tablets and TVs and get them to read, explore nature and/or spend time with friends and family.

Dr. Susan Linn, CCFC director, said when her group took over hosting TV-Turnoff three years ago, they changed the name because TV was not the only "bad guy" anymore.

"It's not even that screens are necessarily 'bad guys' - except for babies," she explained, "but it's just that there's too much of them in our lives, way too much of them in children's lives, and it's important to take a break."

Adults are also encouraged to take the pledge to swear off TV or DVDs for a week and only use the computer if it is required for work.

The CCFC said some studies show that, on average, preschoolers spend 32 hours a week enthralled by screened entertainment.

Toni Riedel, director of communications, Early Years Institute, said kids should just go outside and play.

"When we were young, we were outside playing. We were what's called 'free-range children.' Today, kids are tied to screens. We're in such a technology-oriented society," she said.

Riedel stressed that for children from birth to at least age 2, every week should be screen-free.

"The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends for children under 2, no screen media, no television," Riedel said.

When families are out with restless children at restaurants and other public places, Linn said, their parents too often shove mobile screens in their faces.

"They could bring books, or they could bring crayons," she suggested. "These little things will occupy the kids if it's really too hard for them to sit for long periods of time."

To take the pledge, and to get more information and materials, parents are urged to do an Internet search for "Screen-Free Week." Yes, they will have to use a screen one more time, but they - and their children - may be better off for it.

More information is available at www.commercialfreechildhood.org.



Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - ME