Screen Free Week Raises a Good Issue – Who Is Raising Our Kids?

I’ll be honest that I tune in and turn off my brain as readily as the next person. I enjoy some of the quality (and even some of the less quality) TV offerings and can get caught up in the ‘need’ to watch the next episode. But a recent article in the Vancouver Sun and discussions coming out of the Childhood Obesity Foundation in Canada and Commercial Free Childhood  in the States have made me think about just how much spare time could be gained, and weight lost, if my family and I spent a little less time tuned out.

Next week, April 18 to 24, is Screen Free Week. I’m not sure that my little TV zombies are willing to go completely cold turkey, but even a 30 minute reduction in screen time a day, if turned into a run around the block or backyard soccer game could ensure that we get the recommended amount of physical activity to keep us healthy.

The Childhood Obesity Foundation website recommends every family follow the 5-2-1-0 rule. The 2 is the part of the equation I’ll focus on for this week. 2 hours of screen time or less per day, seems easy enough if I’m paying attention rather than idly flipping channels. I try and maintain that amount or less for my kids – they each get one ‘show’ with each child lobbying the other on what to pick. They have been astonished as the weather has improved that at the end of some days they have ‘missed’ their show by bedtime. But really, what did they miss?

According to the Canadian Community Health Survey, children who watch more than two hours of screen time per day have double the likelihood of overweight and obesity than kids who watch less than one hour per day. Our choices make us who we are, so if we want our kids to be healthier and I think we do, then let’s do our part – turn off our screens and head outdoors as spring comes around.

Raising the issue of why TV, computer and other screen time needs to be restricted and time opened up for other activities that involve actual activity is a good conversation to have within our families and schools. Let’s raise kids with the knowledge of how TV fits into our lives, rather than fitting our lives around the TV schedule.

Samantha Hartley-Folz
Manager, Policy and Programs
April 15 2011

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