Saturday, April 30, 2005

Turning Off and Tuning In

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Turning off and tuning in
County families opt to keep the screen blank in celebration of TV Turnoff Week
Special for The Willits News
Households throughout Mendocino County opted to forgo a very familiar Am-erican pastime this week. Parents spent more time tal-king with their children, children spent more time reading or playing, and fam-ilies spent more quality time together. And they en-gaged in these activities without the distraction of television as they joined FIRST 5 Mendocino in celebrating TV Turnoff Week.
For the past four years, the annual event has encouraged parents and caregivers throughout the county to turn off the television and participate in screen-free activities with their young children.
"TV Turnoff Week is a great opportunity for families to spend more time connecting with each other," said Anne Molgaard, executive director of FIRST 5 Mendocino. "Parents and caregivers are encouraged to read, talk, play and participate in other activities with their children that help spark their imaginations. Positive early learning experiences like these can help prepare children to reach their greatest potential in school and in life."
Watching television may be America's most popular pastime, but the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends no television for children under age 2, and no more than one hour a day for preschool-aged children. Nevertheless children in the United States watch about four hours of television every daya level of viewing that can have damaging consequences to children, particularly during the early years when the brain is developing most dramatically.
Negative effects of excessive television viewing include hindered brain development, less family time, lower reading and academic performance and shorter attention spans.
Children who watch too much television are more likely to be overweight, as they are usually not getting the physical exercise they need. In addition, the American Psycho-logical Association has lin-ked excessive television viewing to violent behaviors in children.
"So many parents are busy and family time can be limited," said Jeremy Mann, M.D., chairman of FIRST 5 Men-docino. "We want families to use this week without television to make the most of their time together and to consider limiting television watching throughout the year. It's very simple - we can do more when we watch less."
FIRST 5 Mendocino hosted and promoted a variety of activities for families with children ages 0 to 5 throughout TV Turnoff Week, including reading and storytelling events at the Mendocino County Public Library. There also were simple projects parents and caregivers could do at home with their young children, like creating craft boxes by decorating old shoeboxes, playing make-believe, dressing up with old clothes and accessories, or enacting plays. Families with younger children went for walks, dug around in the garden, told stories or made music with kitchen utensils. These family activities, along with playing, talking and reading, can help stimulate a child's imagination and prepare them for a lifetime of learning.

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