September 17, 2010

Turnoff Week - September 19th-25th

By Corinn Cross, MD FAAP

Next week, September 19-25th, is National Turnoff Week. Parents are encouraged to use this upcoming week as a seven-day hiatus from televisions, video games, web surfing etc. Instead, families are encouraged to spend a screen-free week together.

Turnoff Week is supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Council on Communications and Media. The most recent statistics show that the average American child spends over 1000 hours a year watching TV and playing video games. To put that in perspective, they only spend 900 hours a year in school. Television, video games, computers and now cell phones are becoming an increasing part of everyday life for the American child. Although there may be many advantages of living in such a technological era, there are well-documented detriments as well.

America is quickly becoming a nation of overweight individuals, and obesity is highly correlated with increased screen-time. Studies have shown that children who spend 4-6 hours a day in front of screens have a higher risk of being obese. All this screen-time is at the expense of less time spent playing sports, doing outdoor activities, reading and having family time.

Pediatricians can help parents by encouraging families to take part in Turnoff Week. As pediatricians, we can discuss the challenges of implementing a screen-free week and provide families with tools to help make the week successful.

1. Have a plan for each day in order to help keep children occupied.
2. Encourage outdoor play.
3. Schedule a family game night.
4. Involve children in dinner. Allow them to create a menu and help with the cooking.
5. Go on a family outing. Fall is a great time to go apple picking or to a pumpkin patch.
6. Plan a trip to the library.

These are just a few ideas of ways to pass seven days without a television. As the Turnoff slogan goes, "Turn off TV. Turn on life."