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National Screen Free Week aims to raise awareness of harmful effects of too much screen time

Posted at 7:31 AM, May 03, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-03 08:37:04-04

HARKER HEIGHTS, TX — It's pretty amazing to have the world at our fingertips. Although, as technology and cell phones evolve we can become more dependent on our phones and find ourselves constantly in front of the screen.

That's why the first week in May is always National Screen Free Week, a time dedicated to being outside, coloring, reading and doing anything else than on social media, playing video games or watching TV.

The week aims to bring awareness to harmful effects that too much screen time can cause on our children.

According to the Child Mind Institute, social media's popularity among adolescents isn't surprising as they grew up with the screen since birth. It has been shown that the use of social media affects what they call the reward centers.

As more likes, comments and shares come in, it brings a sense of acceptance. Unfortunately, when the opposite happens more kids seem to become depressed. Increased time on social media can have dramatic effects to the brain, but it doesn't have to be all bad.

According to the CMI, if social media replaces negative activities or isolation, it can be positive. If it replaces face-to-face interaction or exercise, it can be negative.

Lauren Brown, Mrs. Bell County, advocates the impact that screen time can have on our young children and teens.

"We're the first generation of parents that are raising kids who are constantly digitally connected since birth. When I was a kid and we had more outside time," Brown said.

That outside time is crucial when all some children do are play their video games or on their phones. It can be as simple as taking a short walk to get some fresh air.

As mother of five, Brown has fallen victim to letting her kids have too much screen time. She noticed a change in their behavior and realized things has to stop.

"We've become so dependent on our screens going to a restaurant here's the phone watch your show or coming home from school sure play your game. What I was noticing with my kids is their irritability was up, their arguing was up," Brown said.

She said it was hard at first but it takes being creative and finding different ways to interact with your kids.

"It's going to take time and you have to get a little bit creative as a parent. Get out that play-dough get out the bubbles find the coloring books," Brown said.

National Screen Week isn't about going without, but instead looking at what you receive in return. Twenty minutes on social media can turn into 20 minutes of writing or reading. Watching the latest episode of your favorite show a movie can turn into time spent playing pretend. Cutting back on video game use can turn into talking a walk outside.

This past February, Collin Kartchner came to visit kids at Harker Heights high school. The Ted Talk speaker spoke about the importance of staying off their phones and cutting down on the screen time.

As the founder of #savethekids, he travels across America speaking to parents and kids about putting the phone and video games down. Kartchner is planning to be back in Central Texas next spring.