Our summer reading for the next few months is Martin Large’s “Set Free Childhood”, published in 2003 by Hawthorn Press in their Early Years Series. Today we begin with the forward by Joan Almon, who at the time of publication was Coordinator of Alliance for Childhood. She wrote a wonderful introduction to this book that you can read along when you pick up your copy. At the publication of this book , in 2003, more and more children were becoming sedentary, obese, and diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. There was also growing awareness that the effects of screens went beyond the physical for young children. My favorite quote on page v is: “On the other side, there is more awareness than before that screen time is unhealthy for children – not just physically unhealthy but also socially unhealthy. It interferes with children’s desire to move and be active; but it also diminishes their imagination and creativity.”
If you are interested in how many hours children ages 8-18 are using screens a day currently, here are some statistics from 2010 . Also, this is a report from BBC News from March, 2015 with statistics for children ages 5 to 16. There was also this article from TIME Magazine, 2013. Tweens and teens are using about six to nine hours a day on screens, according to this 2015 NBC news report. (This also excluded time spent on devices for homework; these numbers were for sheer entertainment).
This book has suggestions for both children under 7 and some suggestions for children over 7. As we go through this book, I hope to keep linking to the most current statistics, research and recommendations I can find and to add in some ideas about teenagers and screen usage. Hopefully this book and the associated links and research will be a beginning in gathering information for every family so each family can formulate what is right for them.