Friday, April 15, 2011
Back away from the screen, and no one gets hurt. That is what the Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) is trying to get children to do from April 18th to the 24th for "Screen-Free Week." Screen time includes television programs, movies, video games, Internet time, etc. Anything that involves a screen is discouraged during this week. Glenna Wilson, DHS Office of Community Service Safe Start coordinator says participating will create long and short term benefits. "If they begin to reduce the amount of [screen] time before the age of six, then it's not a definite. It's just like quitting smoking: anytime is a good time to quit." Wilson says that it's not just the content of screen media materials that negatively impacts children. She says that less time in front of a television or computer screen can prevent childhood obesity and psychological problems down the road. "It's important for parents to realize the impact that this has on children. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for children under two, and less than two hours a day for older children." Wilson adds that preschool children spend about 32 hours a week with screen media, and children ages 8 to 18 consider themselves to be addicted to video games. The DHS encourages children to use the time they are not spending in front of a screen with family, friends, and physical activity. Alternative activities and certificates are available online for parents to use as incentive for children to participate in Screen-Free Week.