Saturday, April 21, 2012

Screen Free Week

National Screen Free Week will be taking place April 30-May 6th.  It used to be known as TV Turnoff week but given all the technology options that we all have these days, it's been expanded to include video games, computers, tablets and smartphones,

Due to various reasons, my daughters' school chose to have Screen Free Week two weeks earlier. A neighbor and I were asked by the PTO to organize school events for the week.  Up until now I haven't done anything with the PTO, but with a second grader and kindergartner at the school, I figured it was time to volunteer for something, and I figured this was a great fit. I don't let my kids have a lot of screen time, as I expect them to do homework first, and prefer that they play, read, or do something creative rather than watch TV.  I don't think all TV is bad, but I do believe that most kids get too much screen time, and not enough of the things I listed above.

One of the statistics I found on Screen Free Website states that according to Nielsen ratings, preschool children spend 32 hours a week with screen media.  That works out to 4.5 hours a day!!!!  When my daughters were in preschool they attended three mornings a week for a total of 9 hours a week, which around here is typical.  According to that stat kids are spending 3.5 times more time watching a screen than they are attending school. That's crazy.

I know as kids get older it's tougher to limit screen time as they do have legitimate needs for computers to complete homework assignments, but like anything, if you set good habits from a young age, they will continue as they get older.  I allow my kids 1 show (that they all have to agree on) after all homework is done.  Most days it doesn't happen, as time often runs out after activities and homework and that's just fine by me. 

Ok, time to get off the soap box.  So what did we plan?  Our only guidelines from the school were that people wanted something interactive.  If you just have the kids come and watch a show, it's not that different from staying home to watch TV.  We had a small budget but were lucky that most of our "vendors" volunteered their time.

Monday Night we had a fitness night.  We had two yoga classes (split between younger and older kids) as well as a Tae Kwon Do demonstration including some students from our school as well as adults.

Tuesday we had story night and science night.  For story night we reached out to room parents, senior readers, and community members - fire fighters, police officers, school district superintendent, and asked them to read to the kids for about 10 minutes (1 or 2 stories).  We were overwhelmed by the response.  We held the event in the school library and had the librarians preselect some books for readers, but also encouraged readers to bring their favorites.  We ran the event from end of school til 8 pm and kids came and went as their schedules allowed.  We took a break in the middle for story night.  We had arranged for High Touch High Tech  to handle the science portion of the evening.  I had used them two years ago for my daughter's birthday party and they were great.  They had two different instructor-led experiments for the kids to do - making silly putty and growing crystals.  Then they had tables where the kids could play with tornado tubes, static electricity and flight.  This event had our best turnout.  Our school has about 650 kids and we had probably about 150 kids show up. 

Wednesday was art night.  A local art studio hosted an event for 3-5 graders.  As mentioned above, my kids are younger than that so we didn't go, my co-chair did.  This was also the night that the 5th graders worked on decorations for their "promotion party".  I would have preferred we had also had an event for the younger kids, but by the time we learned that the art studio was planning their event for the older kids it was too late to add something.

Thursday was designated as Music Night as the 4th and 5th grade Chorus were performing in their spring concert.

Friday night we designated as family night, encouraging families to come up with their own screen-free activities.  Partly because we figured if any families chose to attend all our planned activities, they would want a night off, and partly because we wanted to encourage families to come up with their own ideas.

Finally, we gave each student and activity log to track how they spent their screen-free time.  We've asked each student to hand in their logs mid week next week and will award the class with the best participation with a lunch time party (date and theme to be determined).  While we offered the activities I listed above, we aren't penalizing kids who didn't participate in our events, we encouraged them to go screen-free with family and friends instead.  I'll be interested to see what the final participation will be.

I'm happy to say that my kids had no problem giving up their screens for the week, but I know from asking my daughters that some of their classmates had a harder time.   

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