JUPITER, Fla. – Many of you reading this article probably have a smart phone or tablet sitting right next to you at this very moment.
Research shows that by age two, 90 percent of children know how to use a tablet. Studies also show that kids eight and younger spend more time on their screens than they do reading.
But a school in Jupiter is trying out a new trick to prevent kids from getting addicted to technology.
Tree Top Academy has been exercising a ‘No Electronics Week’ for its students.
Kids, teachers and their parents pledged to turn off the TVs and put their phones down for five days straight this week.
We caught up with the kids on Thursday as they entered day four of absolutely no electronics both at school and at home.
“We noticed that every year, children’s fine motor skills like writing were decreasing every year. And we think it’s due to electronics because they’re not coloring, painting, gluing and cutting like they used to at home,” said Cassandra Keller, director of early learning at Treetop Academy. “Instead, they’re being handed phones and tablets to play games. So we said, what can we do to make parents more aware and educate them to do the old fashioned things and not just hand them a tablet at home?”
The pledge applies to all forms of media including TV, tablets, computers and video games.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, media overuse can lead to obesity, less sleep each night, delays in language, and delays in social and emotional development. The way a parent uses media can also be a strong predictor of how their child will use media.
“Electronics are not good for children’s development. It’s not what they’re doing on the electronics, it’s what they’re not doing. They’re not engaging in imaginary play, they’re not talking, they’re not developing language skills or interacting with others,” said Keller.
This week, Treetop came up with activities and lesson plans that don’t involve electronics. The children also created several artistic posters showing their pledge not to use electronics and also drew pledge books showing what they planned to do this week, such as going to the beach or making cookies.
So what can parents do for their own children at home?
- Avoid media for kids 2 years and younger
- For children ages 2 to 5-years old, try limiting media use to a total of one hour or less each day
- Keep bedrooms, mealtimes and parent-child playtimes media free for both children and parents
- Practice a “no screens” rule one hour before bedtime to promote better sleep
“Parents need to be aware. We watch would be feed them, we watch carefully to feed them healthy foods and monitor their diet so we need to monitor their technology use as well,” said Keller.
The electronic-free week at Tree Top ends on Friday but teachers say they plan to make this an annual tradition.
The school hopes other parents can take the same pledge in their own homes, too.