Tips to Keep Screen Time in Check

Kids are spending more and more time in front of a screen these days.  Increased screen time is a risk factor for childhood obesity.  It’s safe to say that technology is here to stay, so finding a healthy balance between screen time and active time is a good goal for your family.

Here are some tips from the National Institutes of Health on how to go from screen time to lean time:

  • Talk to your Family. Explain to your kids that it’s important to sit less and move more in order to stay healthy.  Tell them they’ll have more energy, and it will help them develop and/or perfect new skills, such as riding a bike or shooting hoops.
  • Set a Good Example.  You need to be a good role model and limit your screen time to no more than two hours per day, too.  If your kids see you following your own rules, they’ll be more likely to do the same.
  • Make Screen Time = Active Time.  When you do spend time in front of the screen, do something active.  Stretch, do yoga, or lift weights.  Or, challenge the family to see who can do the most push-ups, jumping jacks, or leg lifts during TV commercial breaks.
  • Set Screen Time Limits.  Create a house rule that limits screen time to two hours every day or an amount works for your family.  More importantly, enforce the time limit.
  • Create Screen-free Bedrooms.  Don’t put a TV or computer in your child’s bedroom.  Kids who have TVs in their room tend to watch about 1.5 hours more TV a day than those that don’t.  Plus, it keeps them in their room instead of spending time with the rest of the family.
  • Make Meal Time = Family Time.  Turn off the TV during meals.  Family meals are a good time to talk to each other.  Research shows that families who eat together tend to eat more nutritious meals.  Try to make this a priority at least two to three times a week.
  • Provide Other Options.  Watching TV can become a habit, making it easy to forget what else is out there.  Give your kids ideas and/or alternatives, such as playing outside, getting a new hobby, or learning a new sport.
  • Don’t Use TV Time as Reward or Punishment.  Practices like this may make TV seem even more important to children.
  • Understand TV Ads & Placements.  Seeing snack foods, candy, soda, and fast food on television affects all of us, especially kids.  Help your child understand that because it’s on TV-or your favorite TV characters/actors/sports stars eat or drink it-doesn’t mean a food or drink is good for you.  Get your kids to think about why their favorite cartoon character is trying to get them to eat a certain brand of breakfast cereal.