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Weaning Kids from Screen Time

Category: Patient Stories
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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 WinesettAspirus 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 adults."

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 Aspirus St. Luke's Pediatric Associates at 218.249.7870.