Less screen time, more physical activity time

As the school years ends, make a plan to cut back on your kid’s screen time and add more physical activity time this summer.

School’s out for summer! Now that kids are home and looking for things to do to stay busy, don’t let the screen take over your child’s summer. Between the television, iPad, iPod, laptops, smartphones and hand-held games, screens seem to be everywhere. As a parent, you should set and enforce rules limiting the amount of screen time your children are allowed each day. Start by having a conversation with your kids about the importance of more physical activity time and less screen time. Health experts suggest no more than two hours of computer or television time per day unless it’s related to work or homework. Children younger than two should not have any screen time. Don’t use screen time as reward or punishment; practices like this make screen time seem even more important to children. Michigan State University Extension reminds you that children need at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day for good health.

Consider these tips when thinking about your families screen time vs. activity time:

  • Assess screen time vs. physical activity time: Start by looking at how much screen time and how much physical activity time is currently taking place. Let’s Move has a screen time log that can be used to track how much time is spent in front of a screen. Write in the log how much time your family spends in front of a screen, including things like watching TV/movies, playing video games and using the computer. Then, look at how much time the family spends doing physical activities, such as walking, biking, gardening or playing sports together. Now, you can make a plan. If you see that your family logs more hours in front of the screen than activity time, sit down together and set some limits to decrease screen time and increase physical activity time.
  • Set screen time limits: Create a house rule that limits screen time to one to two hours every day. Even more importantly, enforce the rule. Use a timer to let kids know when their time on the screen is up. Use a chart to track the time throughout the day and week so kids know exactly what to expect.
  • Be active during screen time: Even while screen time is taking place, you can also be active at the same time. Try stretching, walking in place, walking on a treadmill, riding a stationary bike or lifting weights. Challenge the family to see who can do the most push-ups or jumping jacks during commercial breaks.
  • Bedrooms screen-free: Don’t put a screen of any kind including a TV, computer or video games in your child’s bedroom. Kids who have TVs in their rooms tend to watch about 1.5 hours more of TV per day than those who don’t.
  • Plan for screen-free activities: Watching TV can become a habit, making it easy to forget what else is out there. Give children ideas and alternatives, like playing outside, playing games or cards, picking up a new hobby or learning a sport. There are many ideas that you and your kids can come up with together to do when the screen is off.

Using screen time as easy entertainment for children can become a habit for parents as well. Take time this summer to really look at your family’s screen time and improve the health of the whole family by being more physically active together instead.

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