Southwest Iowa Families Logo

(Clarinda) -- Parents and children in KMAland are urged to stay away from screen-related electronic devices for a whole week this spring.

April 28th through May 4th is designated as Screen Free Week. Carol Brehmer is family support specialist at Southwest Iowa Families in Clarinda. During this week, Brehmer says families should turn off and tune out screen devices that week in favor of "hands-on, creative, interpersonal activities."

"There's lots and lots of great ideas for what parents can do during this week when they are turning off their screens," said Brehmer. "That's defined as TVs, computers, tablets, smart phones, video games--anything that has a screen."

Brehmer says the week is especially important to parents with babies. She says the best way babies, toddlers and preschoolers learn is through all five senses--sight, sound, touch, taste and smell.

"The best thing for babies is to have loving, engaged parents," she said, "who are nurturing, and they are willing to play, and read, and sing, and explore and move with their children--and that's not something you get sitting on a couch, with a screen in front of you. The screens can be educational. They can be apps that are worthy, but they only touch on site and sound."

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently revised its policies for screen time for young children. Previously, the AAP recommended no media for children ages 2 or younger. Now, Brehmer says the AAP recommends no exposure for kids 18 months or younger. However, parents are advised to introduce digital media only with high-quality programming or apps, and that they be used together.

"The warning is, if you do use screens, such as apps on a tablet," said Brehmer, "use them with your child, just as you would if you're sitting with your child holding a book, reading a book. Treat that tablet--or that device--like a book, and talk about it with your child. They recommend avoiding using media as something for children to use alone, and thinking it's a way to calm that child."

Brehmer says Screen Free Week also encourages family communication, instead of time spent in front of TVs or computers that decreases social engagement.

"The two best ways that are known to pass on your family values," she said, "are through sitting at the table, having conversations at meal time, and through chores that the family engage in all together. If you're letting your child eat a little bit, or entertain themselves, they're missing out on family stories, and engagement with relatives in time spent face-to-face--actual face-to-face."

More information on Screen Free Week is available by calling Southwest Iowa Families at 712-542-3501. Carol Brehmer was a recent guest on KMA's "Dean and Friends" program.