Children in Fort Smith are banned from TV, video games and computers again this year, as the fourth-annual No Screens Week hits town.
Public health nurses hope the week will get youth outside and active, while showing them fun alternatives to sitting in front of the television every day.
“The whole intent is to show kids there is a better way of spending your time instead of watching TV,” said Melanie Kearley, a public health nurse in Fort Smith. “There are so many more activities you can do that are really fun.”
No Screens Week started May 16 with a free swim and free soccer in the recreation center gym. It continues all week with other activities throughout Fort Smith including skipping and a family hike on Tuesday, swimming, bike riding and skateboarding on Wednesday and a reading circle and Arctic sports demonstration on Thursday.
The issue of youth obesity has grown to epidemic proportions in Canada over the last two decades.
A recent study published by Health Canada’s Public Health Agency found that children in Canada spend, on average, six hours per day in front of a screen. The same study said only one in eight children gets the required 90 daily minutes of exercise.
The study also noted that on average, children start watching TV at age five months, down from an average of four-years-old in the 1970s.
The study, produced by Active Healthy Kids Canada, states that fitness levels among Canadian children have declined significantly since the 1980s, for both boys and girls. That has corresponded to children today being 14 pounds heavier than children in 1981.
Canada’s territories fare slightly better than the national average. In the NWT, 15 per cent of children get 90 minutes of physical activity per day, which, sadly, ties British Columbia for top spot in Canada.
The public health nurses hope No Screens Week can help reverse the youth obesity trends in Fort Smith. As Julia Sewell said, the week has become very popular with both parents and children.
“All the events were really well attended last year,” Sewell said.
“This year my kids asked me ‘when’s No Screens Week?’” Kearley added with a laugh.
A big push of the week is to convince parents to encourage their children to get away from TV and video games.
A recent survey of doctors in Canada found that parents are often to blame for their children’s lack of physical activity.