Once a year, between April 23 and 29, people around the country are encouraged to turn off their televisions, iPads, computers and any other electronic devices that eat away our time and energy. In its place, everyone is asked to engage in more constructive, creative, educational, athletic and interactive activities.

The fact is, we all spend a lot of time in front of the TV – four hours per day on average. Using that time to play, read or just be with family and friends is thought to be more constructive and fun.

For example, children who watch TV and play less are more likely to be overweight since they aren’t getting much exercise and tend to eat while watching their programs. In addition, such behavior exposes a child to additional violence. A child playing four hours of Nintendo or watching four hours of non-educational television daily through grade school is exposed to 8,000 murders. Children might not understand that real violence hurts and kills people. Even if the “good guys” use violence, children might learn that it’s OK. Also, adult sexual behavior is typically shown on television as normal, fun and exciting – but without potential risks nor results of early sexual activity. Children could copy this behavior to feel more grown up. The same can be said about the messages regarding alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. It is important for parents to warn children of these dangers.

Another thing to be aware of is the potential dangers of commercials. There are 20,000 commercials seen per year by children who watch four hours per day of non-educational television. These ads teach children that a certain toy or food will make you happy or popular. They try to convince them to convince you to buy things neither you nor your child needs.

With that said, not all TV is “bad.” There are many educational programs that have a positive effect. Studies show that pre-school children who watch such shows do better on reading and math tests. (So thank you, Bill Nye, the Science Guy!)

So, try seeing how much fun you can have and how much you can learn away from the TV and other screen-related activities. You won’t be bored. You might even find that you won’t miss it at all!

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