Vail Daily column: Turn off your screens
May 7, 2014
Screen-Free Week is being celebrated nationally and in the Eagle River Valley through Sunday. This means no screens for entertainment.
Seven whole days without watching TV, surfing the Web or playing video games. Can you do it? This is the challenge — turn off the screens and instead spend some time with friends and family, get outside, do something creative, or play a board game — you choose, just no screens.
Why the challenge? Excessive screen time has been linked to poor school performance, childhood obesity and attention problems. Children in the United States spend on average 28 hours per week looking at screens, whether it is a TV, video game, computer or hand-held devices. This is more time than they spend on any one thing except sleeping!
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends less than two hours a day of screen time for children older than the age of 2 (any and all screens); it is recommended that for children younger than 2 it should be avoided completely.
They make no distinction between the types of screens and whether the programs might be of higher quality than just cartoons. "More screen time means less time for hands on play, reading, exploring nature and dreaming — activities crucial to a healthy, happy childhood," said Dr. Susan Linn, director of the Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood.
As part of the 5-2-1-0 campaign, the Healthy Communities Coalition, a community group dedicated to increasing opportunities for healthy eating and active living for all in Eagle County, is spearheading the Screen-Free Week activities. The 5-2-1-0 campaign represents the recommendations that children need five fruits or vegetables per day, two hours or less of screen time, one hour of physical activity and zero sugary drinks. We hope you will join us in our efforts to spread this through the community.
Send us pictures of you and your family doing anything except looking at a screen — hiking, biking, knitting, painting, gardening, reading — the choices are endless.
Post your pictures to #ECscreenfree and @ECPublicHealth. You can also email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Parents need to lead by example — this week isn't just for the kids. For the healthy development of our children, let's take the challenge and make it fun. Oh, and by the way, this doesn't get you out of doing your homework if you need the computer — the challenge is no screens for entertainment. Good luck! Send us those photos!
Jeanne McQueeney is a member of the Healthy Communities Coalition.