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Nevada County schools celebrate Screen-Free Week, encouraging students to ‘un-plug’

Submitted to The Union
Screen-Free week is upon us. The Nevada County Public Health Department has organized a number of activities next week to encourage children to spend time away from their phones, computers and televisions. Above, Veda Van Wagner-Meade spends some quality time in the garden.
Submitted photo by Roseann Bath

Know & Go

To help families stay away from phones, tablets, and televisions during Screen-Free Week, there are numerous community activities planned for all ages.

April 27: Old School Game Night … Middle and high school students are invited to NEO (139 Joerschke Drive, Grass Valley) at 6:30 p.m. Up to 25 years old welcome.

April 30 is Unplug to Read Day: Pledge cards are available at the Nevada City, Grass Valley and Bear River branches of our community library. All kids who pick one up will get a free book. The Madelyn Helling Library in Nevada City will host children’s author Maggie Tokuda-Hall, for a book talk for preschool and elementary kids from 5 - 6 p.m. Tokuda-Hall is the author of Also an Octopus.

May 1 is Unplug to Connect with Nature Day: For inspiration on where to walk, the Bear Yuba Land Trust at bylt.org, which has 30 local trails to explore for all ages and activity levels.

May 2 is Unplug to Cook Day: Cook up a storm with family and friends and engage kids in the process.

May 3 is Unplug to Play Day: Madelyn Helling Library is hosting a game night for all ages from 5:30 to 7 p.m.

May 4 is Unplug to Move Day: The library is hosting a self-guided Storybook walk in downtown Nevada City. Visit the library’s Facebook page for a map for the self-guided walking tour of Also an Octopus. The walk will be up through May 11.

May 5 is Unplug to Connect with Friends and Family Day: Head out to Sierra Harvest’s 2-for-1 plant sale from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Burton Homestead, 16200 Lake Vera Purdon Road, Nevada City. Or check out the Nevada City Farmers Market on Saturday morning. The libraries are hosting a booth at the market with Storybook walk maps, crafts, give-aways and the ability to sign up for a library card.

Led by the Nevada County Public Health Department, local schools and organizations are celebrating national Screen-Free Week April 30 through May 6, according to a release.

During Screen-Free Week, Nevada County Public Health is encouraging children and families to unplug from electronic devices, TV’s and screens generally and to explore other things to do together.  

Screen-Free Week is a national effort for kids to cut back on the use of electronic devices. Bell Hill Academy, Ready Springs School, and Partners Family Resource Center are participating in a pilot project of the Nevada County Public Health Department and the University of California CalFresh Nutrition Education Program to reduce screen time use across our community.

“We know too much screen time can adversely affect kids’ development and behavior,” said Nevada County Public Health Director Jill Blake. “Overdoing it can reduce the amount of sleep your child receives, increase their risk for obesity later in life, and, in young children, negatively affect brain development. We are excited to bring Screen-Free Week to our community. Screen-Free Week is a chance for families to unplug and experience other ways to occupy ourselves.”

In 1971, the average age children started watching TV was 4 years old. Today many children begin to interact with digital media as early as 4 months. It is estimated preschool children spend between two and five hours a day using electronic media.

Including watching TV and looking at social media (which counts as screen-time), 8-18 year olds consume an average of seven hours a day.

Studies show ages 0-5 are a critical time for brain development. During these years, children learn sensory skills — vision, hearing, and motor skills, language skills and higher order thinking skills — through interaction with trusted adults, hands-on activities and unstructured playtime. This age group does not transfer knowledge from watching something on a screen to real life.

For elementary students, research has shown significant exposure to media violence can increase the risk of aggressive behavior in certain children and adolescents, desensitize them to violence, and make them believe that the world is meaner and scarier than it is. Research also suggests that elementary students may not accurately read others’ emotions due to too much screen time.

In teens, research shows behavior to be significantly affected by the use of smart phones/social media. Research tells us that teens with a lot of screen time are less likely to hang out with friends, less likely to date, and less likely to get enough sleep; and they may be more likely to feel lonely and depressed.

“Screen-Free Week is a fun way to step back and evaluate your family’s screen time,” said Blake. “Several local organizations, including the Nevada County Libraries, Bear Yuba Land Trust, NEO, UC CalFresh and Sierra Harvest are partnering with Public Health and we all have activities listed on the calendar.” To obtain the Nevada County Screen-Free calendar and printable pledge card, or to get more information on Screen-Free Week, go to http://www.mynevadacounty.com/2474/Screen-Free.


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