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Screen-Free – Not Just for Children this Week!

We are in the thick of the 2015 Screen-Free Week according to the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.  Back in my public health days it was called it “Break Free from TV Week” but since then, more screens have been added: video games, computers, cell phones, tablets, etc.  The goal is still the same:  limiting children to 2 hours or less of TV but now the challenge is greater because the average child engages in over 7 hours of “screen time” daily.  It’s even tougher for parents to monitor this… their screen time is even higher.

Everyone says “this is the tech generation.”  While that is true, we can’t ignore that this generation is at an all-time unhealthy high.  While the 2015 Nielsen Report tells us that the average adult watches approximately 36 hours of TV a week, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) tells us that the number one reason people give for not meeting the recommended 3 hours of physical activity per week is “lack of time.”  (I guess that makes sense… they are too busy watching TV!)

Statistics keep getting worse with regard to “screen time.”  Over 65% of American households have 3 or more TVs (including in children’s bedrooms) and 67% of families watch TV while eating meals.  Years ago there was a campaign called “Back to the American Table” which promoted eating as a family, partly to promote family communication, which in turn could reduce juvenile delinquency.   The campaign was well-crafted, yet  couldn’t ward off the impact of technology.

I remember when Nintendo and Xbox first came out.  My husband and I were the few parents I knew who refused to purchase these devices for our children, despite their fervent requests.  We supported our sons in a wide variety of sports instead.  Even in our bitterly cold North Dakota winters, we encouraged them to go outside and play.  Years later, that paid off when they played outdoor high school sports in unpleasant weather conditions, and could easily ignore the “elements.”

I clearly remember my sons’ request for the “Sports Wii”, trying to appeal to us with the logic of  “you can get fit using it.”  I turned down that request, too, saying “Why play fake sports when you can play real sports?”  Our house was full of sporting goods so I couldn’t justify spending money on video games that simulated sports. Long story short: my sons survived their childhoods without video games.

So, what about you?  Can you turn off the TV for a week or will you get itchy?  Can you role model for your children dining around a table without cell phones and tablets present?  Can you lead the way for your family to be more fit?

Instead of the TV as the focal point of family entertainment, how about a game of kickball in the backyard or the park?  How about playing together, moving together, cooking together, enjoying each other’s company?

This June I start my new virtual class, Fit Family, Healthy Family.  This is one of the issues we discuss – how to get back on track with fitness, healthy eating, taking back control of the technology excess, and connecting better with our loved ones.  For more information, please feel free to contact me at [email protected] or check out my tele-classes page to see a class description. I’d be honored to work with you!


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