Cape Cod Students to Participate in Screen-Free Week

WEST YARMOUTH – Students on Cape Cod will be taking part in a national effort beginning Monday to go screen-free for a week.

Screen-Free Week encourages millions of Americans to turnoff televisions, smartphones, tablets, and video games and discover other joys of life.

Marguerite E. Small Elementary School students in West Yarmouth will join thousands of schools, libraries and community groups across the country to give up the devices through Friday.

“We’re encouraging kids to not to just shut off their screens but to find new interests – to get outside, read books, discover new passions and to participate in sports,” said Susan Gubbins, an early education teacher at M.E. Smalls. “We’re trying to emphasize that it’s not about taking away the screens but more about adding things to their life.”

The goal of the program is to eliminate the use of screens during leisure times and to notice how much they are using them.

Gubbins said the devices are important for work and school and can be valuable.

“We’re not saying never use screens,” she said. “We’re more looking at the amount of time kids are spending on it and the amount of time they are not doing other things that they are missing out on.”

On average, preschool students spend over four and a half hours a day using screen media. That average can be over seven hours a day, including multitasking, for older children.

Excessive screen time has been linked to number of problems for children, including obesity, poor academic performance and attention span issues.

Gubbins said she has noticed the effects throughout her 25 years as a teacher.

“It’s really hard for kids to listen to a story,” she said. “They want all the special effects and they are used to being a passive observer of a screen.”

Gubbins said past Screen-Free Weeks have led families to change habits after noticing how often the screens were on in the background.

Between Monday and Friday, the M.E. Small School has several events planned to help families unplug and spend time together, including museum, science, art and library programs. Participating organizations include Mass Audobon at Long Pasture, MassDOT, Bike Zone, Yarmouth Police, Yarmouth Recreation, Yarmouth Health Department, Cape Cod Museum of Art, Woods Hole Science Aquarium, Coast Guard Museum and the Yarmouth Port Library.

Many of the organizations are offering free admission throughout the week.

“We’ve provided a lot of activities and support for families because it is hard because screens are everywhere,” Gubbins said.

By BRIAN MERCHANT, CapeCod.com NewsCenter

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