Educating students on alternatives to watching television and setting time limits on internet use is important for their physical and emotional development. The following tips can help kids think critically about their multi-media habits.
5 Activities to Help Students “Unplug”
- Ask students to keep a diary of the amount of television they watch for one week.
- Facilitate a discussion with your students about TV rules and internet time limits in their house.
- Ask your students to complete a physical activity at home with a family member each week.
- Have your students create a list of ideas of what they could do instead of watching TV, playing video games, or using the internet.
- Create a challenge for your students to avoid screen time for an extended period of time. For example, ask them to participate in National Screen-Free Week, usually the first week in May. Students agree to spend seven days “unplugged” from television and media for entertainment and find other ways to amuse themselves and spend quality time with friends and family.
(Source: Physical Activity Foundation)
Teaching Online Safety
When kids socialize online, they should understand how to make good choices and protect themselves. The following discussion questions and activities will encourage your students to think critically about online safety and cyberbullying.
Ask your students:
- What types of activities do you engage in on the internet?
- Protecting yourself online is all about keeping certain things private. What are some things you shouldn’t reveal online?
- If you go online, sometimes you’re asked to create a screen name. Talk about some of the words and numbers people use a lot. Do some of these give away too much information?
- If someone says something online that makes you feel upset or uncomfortable, what should you do? What should you do if someone asks to meet you in person?
- When should you talk to an adult?
Frequently Asked Questions
The amount of time a child spends looking at any kind of electronic display is referred to as screen time, and includes:
- viewing television
- watching videos and DVDs
- playing video games
- using computers, smart phones, tablets, and e-readers
The amount of screen time children experience is staggering. Children younger than age 6 watch screens for an average of 14 hours a week and children older than age 8 watch more than 40 hours a week.
Children are at risk of seeing a multitude of violent acts, poor behavior, questionable values, and countless sales messages. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the average American child will witness 200,000 violent acts on television by age 18 and view 40,000 commercials each year.
Children who get too much screen time are more likely to:
- become obese — children who consistently spend more than 4 hours per day watching TV are more likely to be overweight or obese — an issue that impacts one in five children under age 6. Based on research from the American Academy of Pediatrics, children who get too much screen time spend a greater time sitting rather than being active. A sedentary lifestyle in children can result in medical conditions from cardiovascular problems to diabetes.
- exhibit aggressive behavior — kids who view violent acts are more likely to show aggressive behavior and fear that the world is scary and that something bad will happen to them
- engage in risky behavior — children who watch 5 or more hours of TV per day are more likely to begin smoking cigarettes than those who watch fewer than the recommended 2 hours a day. Over-exposure to violent and sexual images can also lead to problematic and risky behaviors, such as: a negative influence on a child’s norms and values, violence and bullying, sexual activity, and alcohol and tobacco consumption
- exposure to messages on television promoting unhealthy foods can result in increased consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and calorie-dense foods. (Source: Barr-Anderson, 2009)
- develop attention deficit disorder/attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD), screen addiction, and sleep disorders
With moderation, there are some benefits of screen time
- educational value and school-related homework and research
- playing video games can improve motor skills and coordination
- internet tools, texting, and shared video games are easy and fun ways to socialize and communicate
Resources on Media, Television and Children
- Online Safety & Cyberbullying Handout 1 (PDF)
- Online Safety & Cyberbullying Handout 2 (PDF)
- Cyberbullying Quiz (PDF)