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This is another national campaign to reduce electronic usage. Unfortunately the last year of COVID has only increased our total time with all electronic devices. Kids have been indoors and not in school which greatly reduces play and staying fit. It is now essential to join us and fight for just one day of getting back to life basics. Our toolkit to success will allow anyone to enjoy their day without electronics and the ability to share their experiences via social media platforms.

Let’s Celebrate Unplug America Day on October 2, 2021

Rebuilding America’s Values

You can’t avoid screens in today’s world. There are TVs in waiting rooms, tablets in schools, and smartphones in most people’s pockets. As technology continues to emerge, and screens have become integrated into everyday life, some families have had trouble deciding how much time to allow kids to play on their electronics.

Even the American Academy of Pediatrics has changed their advice over the years. For many years, they recommended no more than two hours of screen time per day for children. But, as electronics became increasingly portable, they acknowledged how difficult it can be to enforce those limits.

After all, if your 12-year-old has a smartphone in her pocket, how do you limit how often she stares at the screen? Or if your 9-year-old uses her tablet to read books, should you still set a strict time limit?

But for some families, screen time has slowly taken over their lives. Kids are keeping their noses buried in their electronics and they’re missing out on seeing the world. And in many homes, family time involves everyone sitting around in the living room staring at their smartphones.

If your family has developed some unhealthy habits, a digital detox could help. That’s not to say you need to avoid screens for a lengthy amount of time. Unplugging from technology on a short-term basis could be just the break you need to develop some healthier habits.

Children are now spending 50 hours a week on electronics (even more during COVID). But what do they gain besides entertainment? So, what if they had an extra 50 hours for one week, or 4 weeks or entire year? What could they accomplish? What could they invent, or imagine or dream? Who might they be able to inspire? And, what value could we place dollar/hour on each hour saved? This is the first generation that children will text more than talk. As a parent how would you like to change that to make them a better or happier or more responsible human being.

Signs Your Child (or the Whole Family) Could Use a Digital Detox

Excessive media use could lead to some behavioral, emotional, and academic problems. Here are a few signs your child could use a break from electronics:

  • Your child depends on technology for entertainment. Studies estimate the average child spends seven hours per day on electronic devices. If your child has gotten into the habit of playing video games for hours on end, or he expects to watch countless hours of TV every day, a digital detox could give him an opportunity to explore other interests.
  • You get into power struggles over electronics. If your child argues every time you tell him to turn off the TV or shut his laptop, a break from electronics could help him become more compliant.
  • Your family has developed some bad habits with electronics. Watching TV while eating dinner, texting each other from another room instead of talking face-to-face, sleeping with smartphones next to the bed, or ignoring each other to use social media are just a few examples of bad habits some families get into.
Screen Time and Behavior Problems

Researchers continue to study how screen time influences child development and behavior. As new technology unfolds, it changes the way children relate to screens. Portable video games allow kids to use screens in the car. Smartphones mean kids can access screens while they walk around the grocery store. The list could go on and on.

Many studies have found links between screen time and a variety of behavior problems in children. But, those studies don’t necessarily prove causation.

Do children who naturally have behavior problems gravitate toward electronics? Or does too much time sitting in front of a screen lead to behavior problems? Researchers offer mixed reviews.

But some studies have linked excessive screen time to:

  • Sleep problems – Sleep deprivation can lead to impulsive behavior and reduced emotional regulation.
  • Social problems – Difficulty recognizing other people’s emotions and trouble communicating face-to-face can lead to increased conflict.
  • Increased aggression – Some studies have linked aggressive media to aggressive behavior in children.

Many parents report anecdotal evidence that technology leads to increased behavior problems. Electronics may get in the way of responsibilities, like chores or homework. Or, parents may find that siblings get into more arguments when they’re fighting over who gets to use the tablet next or who is going to play a particular video game first.

A Digital Detox Could Improve Social and Emotional Skills

Researchers at UCLA discovered that a digital detox improved kids’ abilities to read the emotional expressions of others. The study began by asking 11 to 13-year-olds to identify other people’s emotional expressions in photos and videos.

Then, half the group was sent to an outdoor camp where they weren’t allowed to use their electronics. The other half continued to use their normal screen time.

After five days, both groups were tested on their ability to read other people’s emotions again. The group who had continued to use their digital devices showed no improvement. The group who attended camp, however, showed a significant improvement in their ability to recognize other people’s feelings.

The researchers concluded that face-to-face time is essential for children’s social skills. Unplugging for short periods of time can help children better understand nonverbal cues.

These emotional and social skills play a crucial role in behavior management. When children understand how others feel, they’re able to adjust their behavior accordingly.

A child who sees his friend is frustrated may be able to back off on insisting they play by his rules. Or a child who notices her friend is sad can lend a little extra compassion.

Replacing Screen Time With Outdoor Time Is Beneficial

Prior to the invention of the internet and video games, kids played outside much of the time. But now, the lure of technology keeps many kids glued to their screens during their spare time.

If you take away electronics, your child might struggle to find something else to do. His or her boredom could lead to more outdoor play.

Playing outside can have big benefits for kids and it can greatly reduce behavior problems. Running around releases energy and can help kids be less active indoors. Exercise also helps kids sleep better.

Studies also show green spaces—playing in the grass or around trees—improves attention span and reduces stress. Other studies have linked outdoor play to improved problem-solving skills, creative thinking, and safety skills.

A Digital Detox Breaks Bad Habits

For many parents, turning on the TV the second they walk in the door or compulsively checking social media becomes a habit. Kids often develop unhealthy screen time habits too, by turning on video games before school or by getting on the computer the second they walk through the door.

Making a conscious choice to unplug for an extended period of time can break some of those bad habits. When kids get out of their environment and step away from their usual routine, they have an opportunity to develop new habits.

Here are a few strategies for creating a digital detox:

  • A week-long break from electronics – A camping trip, a vacation in the mountains, or a week in a remote cabin could get everyone away from the electronics. Stepping away from technology could renew everyone’s appreciation for simple activities, like board games or playing catch.
  • An electronics-free weekend – If you can’t afford a vacation—or you have a job that makes unplugging for a week seem like an impossibility—consider a digital detox on a smaller scale. Consider making it happen to unplug a few weekends each year.
  • A monthly digital-free day – Perhaps the first Saturday of every month means no screens or the last Sunday of the month is a quiet family day. Commit to spending quality time together without using electronics for one day every month.

Stepping away from electronics for a few days can be a great experiment to see if it changes your child’s behavior. A short break could boost her mood (after she gets over the initial horror of not having her electronics) and increase her motivation to get her work done.

Of course, it’s important to be a good role model when it comes to electronics. If you tell your child to turn off the electronics while you’re sitting behind the computer, your words won’t be effective. So be willing to go through a digital detox with your child. It could be good for the whole family to step away from electronics for a short time.

Keep posted for new information at www.AmericanObesityAssociation.org.

150 Family Activities Without Technology

As parents you’ve heard it many times from your kids – “there’s nothing to do.” Sometimes we need to push a little. Sometimes we need to push a lot. Sometimes we need to show the way and provide opportunities to steer kids of any age away from the technology for a while. It’s easy to see why kids don’t bother sometimes. Screens are easy, portable, require little effort but still provide enormous amounts of joy and entertainment. But kids also still love to play. They still love to get outside, be active, connect with real people and explore and create. We just need to give them a little nudge and remind them of the many ways to ensure a balanced life that is not ruled by the screens, the games and the technology. Here are some great ways that families can enjoy together. Life is about the simple pleasures. Activities don’t have to be long or be complicated. Unwind, relax and enjoy. Try to make a simple goal of analyzing current weekly technology time and then reducing it by 25% within a short period of time.

Use Your Imagination

  • Make paper airplanes out of colored paper.
  • Cut out paper people and accessories from newspapers.
  • Create doll houses and furniture out of felt pieces.
  • Build skyscrapers out of Legos or Tinker Toys.
  • Use large cardboard boxes to create kid-sized houses that the kids can decorate.
  • Think of 3 future vacations and write down what you would like to do.
  • Make a bumper sticker for your car.
  • Make a terrarium.
  • Build a fort inside.

Spend Time with Family

  • Look through photo albums or school memorabilia.
  • Use your talents to create a family variety show.
  • Cook dinner together or bake cookies.
  • Sing karaoke or have a dance party.
  • Take a cooking class.
  • Learn about constellations at night.
  • Start a family tree.
  • Clean the house as a family.
  • Organize the closets.
  • Write down 21 questions about your parent’s past.
  • Listen to old vinyl records.

Get Outside in the Neighborhood

  • Take a walk around the neighborhood with the dogs or a friend.
  • Roller blade around cones in a parking lot on a sunny day.
  • Head to the park for a picnic near a beach.
  • Jump rope in the driveway.
  • Go on an outdoor scavenger hunt.
  • Make a chalk picture on your driveway or sidewalk.
  • Host a neighborhood party.
  • Play hide and seek.
  • Plant trees.
  • Have a garage sale.
  • Make an obstacle course in the backyard.
  • Make bubbles outside.
  • Climb a tree.
  • Go on a treasure hunt.
  • Play hopscotch.
  • Go camping in the backyard.
  • Go for a bike ride on a new trail.

Think Spring

  • Plant a garden.
  • Help paint a room a spring color.
  • Use watercolors to paint a summer sky.
  • Design and fly a kite
  • Buy a caterpillar to butterfly kit and watch it grow.
  • Learn how to build a bonfire.
  • Help rake the yard.
  • Hike through the woods.
  • Start a local neighborhood spring clean-up.

Make a Game of It

  • Pick card games like Uno, Hearts or Rummy.
  • Try a dice game like Tenzi or LCR.
  • Bring out the board games – classics like Sorry! or Monopoly.
  • Create a Battleship game out of two pizza boxes.
  • Tape a tic-tac-toe board on the floor and use colored bean bags for the X and O.
  • Play games with Scientist Trading Cards.
  • Play a game of charades.
  • Learn how to juggle.
  • Build a new Lego creation.
  • Make a flicker book.
  • Play marbles.
  • Make your own crossword puzzle using local places or favorite foods.
  • Create a secret family code.
  • Make a fortune teller.
  • Build a card house from playing cards.

Expand Your Mind

  • Play Sudoku or complete a word search.
  • Browse the library for a good book.
  • Set up a home laboratory and create some science experiments.
  • Put together a model car.
  • Complete a jigsaw puzzle.
  • Learn 10 new words and use them each day.
  • Invent something new like an ice cream flavor.
  • Create a new exercise.
  • Write a short story.
  • Fix an old appliance.
  • Try new foods that you have eaten before.
  • Learn coin collecting and purchase some old coins.
  • Go geocaching in the neighborhood.
  • Subscribe to a monthly magazine.
  • Learn 10 new jokes.
  • Learn how to change a car tire.
  • Help change the car oil.
  • Make a time capsule to be opened up 20 years from now.
  • Learn a new instrument.
  • Create a weather station.
  • Create a daily journal.
  • Write a poem about your family.
  • Draw a comic book with a new super hero.
  • Learn some magic tricks.
  • Draw your hometown with roads and buildings.
  • Create a family play.
  • Write your name in an ancient language.
  • Make a bucket list.

Get Crafty

  • Make homemade play dough or slime.
  • Build structures with marshmallows and toothpicks.
  • Create pasta people with glue and a variety of pasta shapes.
  • Use duct tape and cardboard to make swords and shields.
  • Design Popsicle stick snowflakes, paint white and hang in the windows.
  • Make a candle using a milk carton.
  • Learn to crochet or sew.
  • Create your own postcards.
  • Make a flower bouquet.
  • Collect beach glass and make a new creation.
  • Create a collage out of magazines.
  • Make invisible ink and send a secret message.
  • Paint a rock and leave it somewhere special.
  • Make a bird feeder.
  • Tie dye some clothing.
  • Make a miniature book.
  • Practice napkin folding into new shapes.

Do Something for Animals

  • Teach your dog a new trick.
  • String popcorn on a string or make homemade suet for the birds.
  • Collect towels and blankets for the animal shelter.
  • Create a maze for your hamster.
  • Volunteer at an animal shelter.
  • Make a no-sew pet bed for your cat.

Get Out and Go

  • Go bowling.
  • Play miniature golf.
  • Head to the swimming pool.
  • Get messy with a game of paintball.
  • Learn how to fish.
  • Make plans to travel to a different country.
  • Play a game of street hockey.
  • Try rock climbing.
  • Go to a flea market and find something to repurpose.
  • Visit a new waterfall.
  • Learn how to sail.
  • Go horseback riding.
  • Cheer on at a local little league baseball game.
  • Build a sandcastle at the beach.
  • Take the family sledding.
  • Go to a roller rink.
  • Have a family touch football game.
  • Go to a music concert.
  • Visit a zoo or museum.
  • Go to a local high school sporting event.

Play Road Trip Games at Home

  • Name that Tune – Turn on the radio and see how quickly you can identify the songs.
  • I Spy – Describe something in the house so the other players can guess what it is.
  • Alphabet Game – Name animals, foods or athletes starting with the letter A, then B and so on.
  • Mad Libs – Fill in the blanks to a short story with nouns, verbs and adjectives.
  • Make your own game of Bingo.

Do Something for Others

  • Volunteer at a nursing home or food pantry.
  • Make a meal and surprise a neighbor.
  • Hand-write a letter and send it to someone.
  • Babysit someone for free.
  • Make a phone call to friends or relatives you haven’t talked to in a while.
  • Start a new chore that you can do each week for someone.
  • Make a care package for children at a hospital.
  • Interview your grandparents or great grandparents.
  • Make breakfast in bed for your parents.
  • Set up a beauty salon and give beauty treatments to your mom.
  • Clean your house and donate items to a non-profit.
  • Do a surprise birthday party for someone.
  • Wash your parent’s car

You may also interested to know more about National Fitness Day? Call + (781) 935-9010 or email info@AmericanObesityAssociation.org for more info now!