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Experts: Unplugging is an Endeavor Worth Pursuing

Too much screen time is linked to hyperactivity, as well as emotional and behavioral problems. (Pixabay)
Too much screen time is linked to hyperactivity, as well as emotional and behavioral problems. (Pixabay)
April 30, 2018

LINCOLN, Neb. — Spending time without phones, tablets, televisions and video games may be challenging, but experts say it's an endeavor worth pursuing.

April 30-May 6 is Screen-Free Week, an annual event encouraging families to rediscover life outside the digital world. Jean Rogers, screen-time program manager with the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, said while experts suggest no more than two hours a day of screen time, preschool children on average spend more than four and a half hours a day in front of a screen, and for older kids it's seven-plus hours.

She said children can become quite resourceful when screens are not an option.

"Boredom is great for kids. They're able to create, they're able to problem solve and learn how to cooperate with each other to figure out what to do,” Rogers said. “You may have complaints, especially from older kids. But most often we hear that families love it, they tough it out at the beginning but at the end, they all love it."

Not only is too much screen time linked to obesity and sleep disturbances among children, Rogers noted it can also cause hyperactivity, emotional and behavioral problems, and difficulty with peers. Experts also say screen time for children younger than three is linked to language delays.

Rogers added that it's understandable that parents are busy and may find it difficult to control the amount of time their child is in front of a screen.

"We don't want parents to feel judged; that's the last thing. There's so many things to worry about when you're a parent and that's why it's about just about reducing,” she said. “We know that parents need it to pay bills, they need it for work, we know kids need it for school. But it's about taking that break and feeling what that's like."

Beyond just telling kids to "go outside and play," Rogers suggested parents find activities that can be enjoyed as a family. Parents can find recommendations online at screenfree.org, along with a pledge card for kids.

"We know that when they sign something, they are more likely to commit to it,” Rogers said. “And the pledge cards on one side have ideas for what they might do during Screen-Free Week and on the other side a place where they can log some of their favorite books that they read."

Researchers say kids who spend less time watching television when they are young have a healthier diet, are more physically active, and tend to do better in school.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - NE