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Screen time for kids

Tips For Reducing Screen Time To Help Overweight Kids

Screen time.  Sixty years ago, the concept of  ‘screen time’ was unheard of.  Why?  Because the only screen people had to watch was their back door and at the movies.

Then “the screen” quickly moved into our homes with the introduction of the TV.  Today it goes everywhere we do: our cars, purses, briefcases, airplane seats, bedrooms, and even waiting in line at the roller coaster.

How has this invasion of technology affected the health of our kids?

You may already know the answer to this question, especially if you’ve ever tried to wrest your kids away from the computer and outside to play.

Dr. David Dungan, a pediatrician and internist from Lombard, IL, says that the amount of screen time your kids watch each day is a key player in controlling their weight.  The more they sit, transfixed by millions of pixels like  dazed zombies, the more their metabolisms slow down. That is bad.

Also, research has confirmed that kids who sit longer in front of the TV, tend to take in more calories. It’s easier to sit and snack when you’re hands are free and your attention is on what you’re watching, not what you’re eating.

Did you know that inactivity and weight gain are not the only results of this sedentary lifestyle?  It also negatively affects the developing brains of our kids. That is also bad.

Screen Time: What’s a Parent To Do?

Kids having screen time in bed with cell phone

Photo used with permission by Captured Beauty Photography.

Dr. Dungan recommends limiting screen time to 2 hours/day to help prevent and curb childhood obesity.  This, along with a healthy diet and an hour of exercise every day, will help kids feel like dancing with the stars. 

A few of these ideas may help you as you create some healthy boundaries for your kids:

  • Keep a timer by the TV and/or computer for your kids.  Always have a clear ending time when they jump on.
    • Most computers now allow you to specify time limits on certain accounts. Learn this feature and use it!  This way, the computer can turn off after a certain amount of time or even different times of day.
  • Give your kids choices so they feel like they get to make some decisions.  For example, “You have 2 hours today on the screen. You can watch one episode of your show now and have a little time left for later OR you can watch that movie now with zero computer time.”
  • Limit snacking and eating in front of the screen. More unnecessary calories are consumed this way.  We make eating in front of the T.V. a special occasion once each week when we get together as a family for ‘movie night.’
  • Set one day a week when all screens get turned off (this means for everyone, of course).  Focus on doing some fun activities on that day as a family.
  • Have regular weekends when your family gets away and becomes “unplugged.”
So remember the 2-hour time limit. It is a great rule of thumb. Will you get it right every day? NO! But this at least gives us a good goal to strive for. And it will increase our awareness of not turning our kids into mindless, super-sized zombies!
Kids fishing as an activity to reduce screen time

Camping or daily outings to state parks are a great way to reduce screen time and keep kids active.



6 comments… add one
  • Linda O'Rourke May 3, 2013, 10:22 am

    I really believe it is the responsibility of the parents to ensure our children don’t spend too much time looking at the screen whichever type of screen that maybe. As a society I think we don’t always spend enough time outside anymore having fun. It is easier to put the kids in front of a TV or computer so that we can do what we need to do. However, time outside with your children is the best time that you can give them.

    • Bonnie (site owner) May 3, 2013, 10:24 am

      I couldn’t agree more, Linda! Well said. Thanks for the comment!

  • Jory Fisher April 30, 2013, 1:42 pm

    Such an important topic, Bonnie… you have great suggestions here not just for children and their parents but for any adult who wants to turn from couch potato to productive citizen. Though I firmly believe in R&R, which may well include some snuggle time on the sofa, too much sitting and snacking can’t possibly lead to anything good. It’s all about balance.

    Thank you!

    Jory

  • Sigrid McNab April 30, 2013, 1:19 pm

    I really like this post on reducing screen time for kids. These tips are good for adults too. I really like this one: “Set one day a week when all screens get turned off (this means for everyone, of course). Focus on doing some fun activities on that day as a family”

    • Bonnie (site owner) April 30, 2013, 3:54 pm

      Thanks for the comments, Sigrid & Jory! These are indeed good guidelines for anyone, though I know that with a lot of jobs, we adults often have more time in front of a screen than our kids. We always look forward to our times together as a family when no screen is involved. Much more fun memories are made that way!

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