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Family Forum: Turn Off Kids' Electronics

Long Island's Early Years Institute asks parents to turn off the kids’ electronics and go out and play together.

Some parents may not be thrilled to learn that spring break happens to coincide with Screen-Free Week. But through April 24, the (EYI) in Plainview is asking local parents to turn off the kids’ electronics and go out and play together.

Fortunately, the organization — which works to improve the early childhood experience — is making it easier to do so with a list of alternative activities and the support of museums, libraries and kid-friendly businesses.

The concept comes from real concerns among researchers that young children today spend far too many hours alone in front of a TV, computer and hand-held devices, says Dana E. Friedman, Ed.D., president of the EYI.

For instance, 40 percent of three-month-olds are regular viewers of screen media and 19 percent of babies one year and under already have a TV in their bedrooms. And this is in spite of the fact that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for children under age two.

Screen usage only increases from there, with kids between the ages of 8 and 18 spending as much as 7.5 hours of screen time a day. In fact, Friedman said, children spend more time using screen media than any other activity other than sleep.

“Today’s kids spend an average of only 16 minutes every day playing creatively, and only 4 to 7 minutes outside per day,” Friedman said. “The end result is a long list of issues, from compromised learning skills to obesity.”

To raise the public’s consciousness, the EYI has made local the nationwide Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, which declared April 18-24 Screen-Free Week. The idea is to invite families to take a pledge to reduce the amount of time children spend watching TV, using computers and playing on hand-held devices.  You can download the pledge and activity log here.

Don’t worry that you’ve missed two days; you can extend it into next week, or start today and do the best you can for the rest of the week. The main goal is to increase your family’s awareness of how much time you spend in front of a screen.

Meanwhile, you can enjoy other activities the rest of this vacation week. EYI is providing an online “Guide to Screen Alternatives” featuring local businesses, museums, parks and other facilities that will suggest indoor and outdoor activities for children and families either for free or at a discounted price. Every library, already a substitute for screen-time, has reading and craft activities to enjoy all week.

In addition, some favorite children’s venues are offering discounts for kids who bring in their pledge card. These include:

in Plainview. If your child presents their pledge card, they get in for free for a bounce session. Call 516-575-2300 for more information or visit their site at www.pumpitupparty.com/ny/plainview/home-p1q153.htm.

At the , children get $2 off the $10 admission. And they get a 10 percent discount in the store on purchases of $15 or more for family games and craft activities. Call 516-224-5800 or visit www.licm.org.

There’s an online coupon for $2 off admission at . Visit www.atlantismarineworld.com/couponcove.php to print reduced admission coupons. Call 631-208-9200 for more information.

Today, get 40 percent off a private junior tennis lesson at . Participants must be accompanied by an adult who can sign paperwork before the lesson. Call 631-751-6767 or visit www.setaukettenfit.com.

Take a free beginner pottery lesson with Stephanie Freese at Stephanie’s Stoneware Pottery, located at 660 Wenwood Dr., in East Meadow. It’s a free hands-on, one-hour session to explore “throwing” a pot on a wheel. Call 516-489-5115 to schedule a day and time.

For more activities in your area, visit EYI’s Guide to Screen Alternatives

Liza N. Burby is Publisher of Long Island Parent magazine. To learn more about how to participate in Screen-Free Week, you can also visit Long Island Parent for more kid-friendly, screen-free events.

Liza N. Burby April 20, 2011 at 06:10 PM
I agree; I've always been a library fan. There's also the playground and your own backyard. Remember the games we played as kids, like red-light, green-light? Sadly that can be a novelty for our kids who are used to structured activities. But it makes for free and spontaneous fun, and is something they're likely to remember. And for bad-weather days, there's always board games. My family enjoys playing Hands-Down with me because my usually mild-mannered personality goes a little haywire with all that slapping, and my kids love to tease me about my shouting. It's something they won't ever forget because we all usually dissolve into tear-inducing laughter at my expense. But, hey, you have to sacrifice your diginity sometimes as a mom.
Adina Genn April 20, 2011 at 06:15 PM
Fond memories of those games, and also spud. Sadly, kids don't really play outside in the neighborhood anymore.
Liza N. Burby April 20, 2011 at 06:21 PM
True. I wrote an article about that in Long Island Parent magazine in Dec/Jan. The experts conclude that our kids don't have the same freedom we did because we're more afraid for them. A topic for another day, I suppose, but if fear is our motivator, then there's a lot on screen that is far more harmful to them than walking down the street to a friend's house.
ed April 21, 2011 at 02:35 PM
So True , I said as I write on my computer and talk on my cell phone
Liza N. Burby April 21, 2011 at 03:08 PM
I know. The perennial issue of parenting.

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