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This Week, Think Outside the Box

Screen-Free Week promotes powering down

Influence Magazine on May 1, 2017

On any given day, 8- to 12-year-olds in the U.S. average nearly 4.5 hours of entertainment screen media use, and teens log more than 6.5 hours, according to a 2015 study by Common Sense Media. This week, an advocacy group is calling on families to pull the plug.

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) has declared May 1 through 7 Screen-Free Week. The event challenges people everywhere to “turn off screens in order to connect with nature, family and their own creativity.”

“Far too many children — and adults — are spending far too much time with screens,” says Josh Golin, executive director of the organization. “Screen-Free Week is a great way to take a much-needed break from entertainment screen media and rediscover the joys of face-to-face interaction and offline play.”

You’ll never look back on your life and wish you had spent more time in front of a screen.

The CCFC reports that school-age children spend more time engaging with screen media — television, video games, computers, tablets and phones — than participating in any other activity besides sleeping.

And screen habits are beginning at an earlier age. The amount of time children ages 8 and under spend using mobile devices tripled from 2011 to 2013 — and continues to rise, the group says.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for children under 18 months. Yet 64 percent of infants and toddlers watch TV and videos or use apps for an average of just over two hours a day, according to the CCFC.

“Excessive screen time is linked to a host of problems facing children today, including poor school performance, childhood obesity, sleep disturbance and attention problems,” the CCFC says.

Mark Entzminger, senior director of Children’s Ministries for the Assemblies of God, says it often takes intentional effort to keep digital distractions from intruding on time with God and family. 

“In recent months, I’ve been hearing the term sacred space,” Entzminger says. “I’ve begun to echo this at key moments in our home and as I minister, as times when we want to focus on another individual without interruption — or, more importantly, to focus on what God might say to us. I’ve been amazed at how difficult this can be, but also how rewarding. I would encourage families and ministries to begin implementing, but not abusing, the concept of sacred space during a family meal, when a service begins, as memories are being made, etc.

Entzminger says setting aside electronics for dedicated time together can help families reconnect and remember what’s most important.

“You’ll never look back on your life and wish you had spent more time in front of a screen, but you may wish you had spent more time in true connection with others,” Entzminger says.

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