How much time do your kids spend in front of the television or computer
monitor? Chances are, it's more than you think. The National Institutes
of Health says children between the ages of 8 and 18 spend between 3 and
7½ hours per day viewing or interacting with on-screen media, including
Facebook, YouTube, television, video games and more. And that's not
good news for parents of developing children. Studies show that watching
too much television can reduce language skills, increase symptoms of ADD
(attention deficit disorder), and lower the body's metabolism, which
can lead to weight gain and obesity.
"Many parents genuinely want to take control of their children's
screen time," says
Dr. Heather Winesett,
St. Luke's Pediatric Associates. "But that's difficult since we read books on a tablet, play
games and write papers on a computer, and do research on a smartphone.
Screen time is very integrated into all aspects of our culture."
With some creative thinking, it's possible for parents to introduce
physical activity back into their kids' schedules "It's important
to be age-appropriate," says Dr. Winesett. "We support the recommendations
of the American Academy of Pediatrics: no screen time for children younger
than age two and up to two hours per day for anyone age two and older-including
Here are some ways to help wean your family off the screen:
Plan screen-free time. Choose times during the week, like the hour after dinner, to turn off
the screens. Instead, spend that time playing a game, baking, reading
or staging a family talent show.
Be a good role model. If you're telling your kids to turn off their monitors and devices,
you need to, too. Go for a walk with your kids, do a craft project or
play with the dog together.
Let the kids plan the time. Assign each family member a time to choose or plan an activity. It's
a great way to connect with your kids and learn what interests them.
On-the-go activities. Take advantage of your neighborhood. Take a walk and look for the oldest
house or the biggest tree in your neighborhood. Visit a park or library.
Find out if and when your museums offer free admission. See a play at
the local school.
At first, limiting screen time may be challenging, but the benefits are
well worth it. The key is to get your kids involved, so they begin to
take charge of their health and well-being. For questions or concerns
about your child's health, talk to your doctor or call
St. Luke's Pediatric Associates at 218.249.7870.