Hey, you! Yes, you in front of your computer screen. Screen-Free Week – formerly known as TV-Turnoff – encourages you and your family to turn off the TVs, computers, gaming consoles and smartphones to enjoy some unplugged time together.
Every year since 1996, Screen-Free Week – organized by The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood – helps families cut back on the amount of time they spend in front of the various screens that captivate us.
On average, preschool-age children spend about 2-4.5 hours in front of screens a day, according to the Screen-Free Week website. This excessive screen time can cause a multitude of problems, including childhood obesity, poor grades and problems sleeping, studies on the organization’s site report.
But the habit of zapping screen time in your home doesn’t have to stop after the week is over – and you don’t have to quit cold turkey. Here are six tips for small changes with big impact to help you and the kids gradually turn off the tube and learn to set the laptop aside.
1. Create a schedule for screen time
Sit down with your family and make a daily or weekly schedule for screen time. WebMD recommends families set time limits for TV and computer usage that works around everyone’s schedules. According to The Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood, children shouldn’t watch TV an hour before bedtime, as it can create sleep disturbances. Try cutting out TV during meal times and strike up conversation with your family, or only allow computer time after homework is finished.
2. Unplug the bedrooms
Take the TVs, computers and other screens out of your child’s bedroom. After you’ve created a screen schedule, it will be easier to monitor the amount of time your kids spend in front of the TV. This way, your child won’t be wired before bedtime, either, WebMD says.
3. Disconnect cable
If you cut the cable in your home, everybody will be less tempted to watch TV, says Better Homes and Gardens magazine. You’ll save money every single month, too! What can you do with your extra money? Buy board games, puzzles, books or save it for a vacation together?
4. Get outside or play a game
Spend more time together by giving other activities a spin. Encourage your kids to set the video game controllers aside and play a board game, instead. If the weather is nice, step into the yard and read under a shady tree. WebMD suggests families take their healthier lifestyles one step further by playing outside. Try tossing around a Frisbee or taking a bike ride together.
5. Get creative
Challenge your kid’s creativity by putting together a craft box full of supplies for drawing, making cards or writing her own story book. Looking for a craft or recipe? Check out Metro Parent’s kid-friendly recipes or family activities sections online for ideas.
6. Watch educational shows and movies
Still having trouble eliminating TV? Try narrowing the programs you watch. Better Homes and Gardens suggests that when you and your older kids sit down to watch TV, make sure it’s something educational. Tune into the Discovery Channel, the History Channel or watch documentaries for more enlightening entertainment.
So what are you waiting for? Turn off this screen and get started!
This post was originally published in 2012 and is updated regularly.