Screen time. How much is too much? Or not enough? Not all screen time is created equal, but as with most things, moderation is the key.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Screen time should be avoided for kids under age 2 and older children should be allowed no more than 1-2 hours of screen time a day. Too much screen time is similar to an addiction and can be detrimental to a child’s physical, emotional, and mental well-being.”
That’s fine, but you can’t just say… “Don’t do that.” To be successful in breaking the addiction to the screen, you need to offer alternatives.
According to Fran Waters, a Clinical Social Worker and Marriage and Family Therapist here in Marquette, “It’s definitely important for parents to encourage other activities, for example… outdoor-physical activities, engaging in face-to-face interactions with peers, hobbies, art, reading, etc.”
Other Things to Do
The good news is there are plenty of “other activities” available to youth in our area. In addition to the standard extra-curricular stuff offered through our schools, there are any number of alternatives out there which many kids find rewarding… even more than screen time.
I’ve written here previously about the various bike clubs targeted at youth. In case you haven’t noticed, biking is HUGE in Marquette, and it’s really not that hard to get a kid on a bike.
The arts, as Waters suggested, are also an area where our young people have plenty of options. The Superior Arts Youth Theater is a year-round organization where many novice thespians end up finding a talent they didn’t know they had.
Music for All Kids is a program that helps students identify their aptitude for musical instruments. We’re even seeing young folks singing and playing at area open mic nights!
What else? Dance studios are plentiful. Area gyms offer programs specifically designed for youth. The Moosewood Nature Center at Presque Isle “celebrates nature through education.” Over in Ishpeming the Partridge Creek Farm project has kids getting dirty… the good kind!
Screen time, in and of itself, is not inherently harmful. You’re doing it right now! But for our young people, there are vulnerabilities, as we’ve seen locally. Waters warns of the unseen dangers. “One important concern is that kids can isolate in their rooms and be exposed to cyberbullying or sexual predators, and become depressed and anxious without the support of parents monitoring them and friends to help them.”
I’ve seen families where the kids spend almost all of their free time on a screen, and I’ve seen families where screen time is monitored and the kids are forced, not encouraged… forced, to get involved in something else. And believe it or not, they often find they actually enjoy getting involved in something that’s three dimensional.
Here’s some free advice from an unaccredited source… me. Get ‘em started early! If you wait until your child is a sophomore in high school before you suggest they expose themselves to light coming from somewhere other than an iPhone… you’re too late.
The good news is, in addition to all the activities suggested above, there’s a place right here in Marquette that offers a wide variety of experiences. Things that could inspire your child to try something that just might end up being their new passion. I’m talking about the U.P. Children’s Museum. And don’t let the word “museum” fool you. You won’t find too many “don’t touch” signs in this place.
Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum
Starting a new job is always challenging. Replacing a legend at that job borders on masochism. I’m not suggesting Jessica Hanley harbors any self-destructive tendencies, but following in the footsteps of U.P. Children’s Museum founder Nheena Weyer Ittner would surely cause some sleepless nights.
Hanley also serves on the Marquette City Commission, so maybe she does have a thing for personal persecution, but you’d never know it by talking to her. Her energy and enthusiasm for the task at hand seems to serve her well, regardless of the obstacles.
“Nheena was a force,” says Hanley. “The museum wouldn’t exist without her and I am honored to bring it into the future, while being very mindful of the hard work and dedication that it took to get it to this point.”
As she approaches the end of her first year at the helm, Hanley proudly cites the many positive comments she gets from visitors. “The thing I hear the most from guests is that they love how unique our museum is. We are hard to compare to other children’s museums because our exhibits were not only made for children, but they were designed by them.”
Of course, it’s all about the kids. “We have quite a few new things coming up. We’ve received a grant to bring in Virtual Reality headsets! We’ll be setting up time slots a few days a week for kids 9+ to come enjoy them. We’re hopeful this will help to expand our audience to a slightly older demographic.”
And coming up later this month… “We have our Baraga Block Party on September 17th from 2-6. We will be shutting down the 100 block of Baraga and bringing in bounce houses, food trucks, kids yoga, a dunk tank and so much more! We are very excited about that.”
It looks like the Children’s Museum is in good hands. Check it out at upchildrensmuseum.org.