Monday, April 19, 2010

Today kicks off National Screen Time Awareness Week (NSTAW). During this week your child may bring home a pledge form from school asking that you turn off the television and other media (including texting!) in an effort for children to become more aware of just how much the media influences their lives. For 'tweens and teens this includes time spent on their I-phones, I-pads, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Even as adults, we struggle with excessive amounts of time spent on mobile devices and computers.

This week is a wonderful opportunity for families to reconnect. For some families, it may mean a dinner hour where they can talk about the day. For others, playing a board game of shooting hoops will give your kids hands on time with you. It is also a great time for kids to go outside and play with their friends, explore the great outdoors and use their imaginations.

Children need to develop their imagination. This particular skill develops the ability to envision concepts which can give birth to innovations. Albert Einstein said that "imagination is more important than knowledge for knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand while imagination embraces the entire world and all there ever will be to know and understand."

Pondering, daydreaming and pretending can all lead to your child's eureka moment of understanding something complex. Daring to dream that which is and that which can be unleashes creativity and potential. Children need non-structured playtime to develop their imagination. It helps them gain critical problem solving skills, practice roll playing (i.e. mommy or daddy), develop language skills as they tell stories and gives birth to creativity and innovation.

Passive entertainment does little to stimulate a child's brain activity, develop their physical abilities or help them with socialization skills. It takes away physical activity leading many children to struggle with obesity. Obese children often have problems with their self image and are many times the subject of teasing and ridicule from their classmates.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation's study "Zero to Six", 30% of children from newborn to 3 years of age and 46% of children 4-6 years of age have televisions in their bedrooms. Kaiser's further study "Generation M2" revealed that children 8-18years of age spend more than 7 hours per day in front of a tv, computer or some other type of media.

It is still important for parents to read to their children. Did you know that reading scores are lower when children spend too much time watching tv? Television also impairs language skills in young children, exposes older children to more violence and influences their attitude toward drinking, cigarettes and drugs.

As pediatricians we recommend limiting media time to no more than 2 hours per day. Some teens are required to do their homework on a computer because it must be turned in typed instead of handwritten. This is an exception to the rule but for free time it should still be limited to two hours.

You may read more on the influence of media of children at:

To read more on imagination go to:

To read more on the importance of physical activity:

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