ROCKPORT — Elementary school children and their parents are tuning out, beginning today — at least when it comes to home electronics.
Rockport Elementary School is joining thousands of schools, libraries, and community groups nationwide this week in a coordinated effort to encourage millions of Americans to turn off televisions, computers, and video games for seven days.
Starting today and continuing through next Sunday, the school is urging its pupils to "turn on" the world around them as they turn off all their electronic diversions.
"Screen-Free Week" is designed to provide a chance for children to read, play, think, create, be more physically active, and to spend more time with friends and family.
"Screen-free week can be a fun experience for both parents and children," said Alexandra Curley, a Rockport resident, mother of two young children and PTO member. "Parents learn they can set limits on screen time, and children rediscover their creative sides by spending time doing all those things that are so important for healthy development: outdoor play, creative hands-on play, art, building, discovering, etc." Curley said she drew a great response from local businesses when she went out to solicit items for raffle prizes connected to the project. She said local business owners were supportive of the idea in general to encourage children to turn off their televisions and computer games. The businesses are supporting Screen-Free Week with donations of fun games, gift certificates, and other prizes that will be raffled off at school each day of Screen-Free Week for participating students.
Curley said she brought the idea to the Rockport PTO to raise awareness about the impacts of excessive screen time on children.
Statistics show that, on average, preschool children spend more than 4 1/2 hours a day consuming screen media, while older children spend over seven hours a day, including multitasking.
Excessive screen time is linked to a number of problems for children, including childhood obesity, poor school performance, and problems with attention span. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends zero screen time for children under two and less than two hours a day for older children.
Screen-Free Week (formerly TV-Turnoff) is coordinated by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, a national advocacy organization devoted to reducing the impact of commercialism on children. Since the Week's founding in 1994, it has been celebrated by millions of children and their families worldwide.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has been part of the discussion as it cautions parents about the amount of time children spend in front of a television or playing computer games. According to the academy, there is no educational benefit for children under two that comes from watching television or any kind of screen time. In one of its publications, it cited Nielsen research data that revealed that the average child or adolescent watches an average of nearly three hours of television per day.
"This figure does not include time spent watching videotapes or playing video games. (a 1999 study found that children spend an average of 6 hours 32 minutes per day with various media combined). By the time the average person reaches age 70, he or she will have spent the equivalent of 7 to 10 years watching television," according to the article in Pediatrics, the official journal of the academy.
For more information on the Screen-Free event, visit www.screenfree.org.
Gail McCarthy may be contacted at 978-283-7000 x3445 or email@example.com.