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  • Writer's pictureElisa Brazell


Updated: May 23, 2020

In our digitally integrated life, kids and adults alike are surrounded by screens and endless options of using them for just about everything.

➡Educational learning programs, banking, tracking our steps, calories and exercise, calendaring, lists, connecting with friends, and the list goes on.

There is no doubt our phones, tablets and computers are super useful tools.

There is probably an even longer list of ways to entertain ourselves on screens. But is it possible we are missing out on some things when we indulge in screen entertainment in most or all of our free time? And what about our kids... and their future?

Over the years, I have been sensitive to how much screen time our kids are allowed. We've tried to keep it to under two hours a day, as doctors recommend. I noticed though that even within this limit, they go through phases where they would go to screens for their free time over any other activity.

I have never been a screen watcher myself. Even as a young girl I remember being bugged seeing my brother watch cartoons after school. I just felt like screen entertainment was such a waste of time as a youth and teen. I preferred to do other activities with my time. I remember between the ages of 14 and 18, I spent a lot of time practicing my guitar; hiking with friends on trails near my home (Me ⬆ peak bagging @ 18; walking around my neighborhood or listening to and singing music at the top of our lungs (Phantom of the Opera) with friends; and reading, interspersed with Disco Skating and playing hide and seek at ski resort lodges and acting on other annoying-to-adults but awesome-to-teen ideas only teens could come up with.

Times have changed since many adults were youth, mainly with a sharp rise in technology, and it's here to stay. As a society it is important to learn to manage our screen exposure and keep it to healthy levels. Understanding the downsides of choosing screens too often during free time can help motivate us to manage it well. Here are a few negatives of too much screen exposure:

Lack of productivity

There's definitely a time and a place for entertainment on screens, but I do not believe that spending most or all of our free time zoning out in front of a screen, is productive or is what this life is about. We are meant for more.

We can use our free time to learn and practice new skills, help others, and make a positive impact on the world and others' lives.

Problems with blue light

Lack of productivity isn't the only downside of using screens for entertainment. I'm sure everyone is now aware of at least some of the negative affects of blue light on our eyes and brains. According to Gary Heiting, OD, "Blue light exposure may increase the risk of macular degeneration. The fact that blue light penetrates all the way to the retina (the inner lining of the back of the eye) is important, because laboratory studies have shown that too much exposure to blue light can damage light-sensitive cells in the retina." This Tech Insider image shows many other problems blue light can cause.

A quick google search will turn up studies galore of many other negative effects of too much screen time including

Impaired Dopamine Function related to addiction

grey and white matter atrophy in the brains of those who play video games too frequently, leading to loss of the ability to feel compassion and express empathy, among many other effects.

■ Obesity due to a sedentary lifestyle and hormone issues (see picture above)

■ Damaged relationships

This was motivation for me to come up with a plan of how to help my kids explore other options in what they use their time on. This is how the free time bingo board was born.

Free Time Bingo Board


As I was in the midst of looking for and thinking about how I could help my kids flourish with better uses of free time, the idea and everything with it came flooding in my mind so easily and all at once that I knew it was inspired.

How we use it:

1. Each of my childrens' first name initials are in the right columns of each square.

2. I have our bingo board in a frame behind glass, hanging on the wall.

3. I have drawing slips (included with the free download) printed and folded and keep them in a baggie with prizes.

4. Our kids mark their initial with a wet erase marker by the activities they complete throughout the week.

5. At the end of the week on Sundays we do the drawing.

6. For each slip pulled out, the person whose name was marked on that square gets a point. First person to 5 points wins a prize like a candy bar, coloring book, etc.

The Free Time Bingo Board has been a great way to have our kids explore many different activities and ideas, other than screen-related entertainment. It has been a great tool for us and I hope someone out there experiences that for their family as well. 🙂

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