As smartphones, iPads and all these new screen-based gadgets become more and more kid-friendly, the challenge to get our children off the couch and outside becomes more and more prevalent.
Childhood obesity rates show that our kids are becoming more sedentary and one of the causes of that is those smartphones and tablets we have come to love so much.
Minimize screen time
Back in the ‘80s, about six percent of 6- to 11-year-old children were considered obese (Body Mass Index over the 97th percentile). Today that number has skyrocketed to 18 percent. When we look at overweight teens (BMI over the 85th percentile), the number jumps to 34 percent. Everything I am reading in the medical journals tells me it’s partly because children are seeing six to seven hours of screen time per day. Some of that is education-related, but if you are sitting in front of a screen, odds are you are not doing any physical activity.
It’s become a vicious cycle. Screen time is cutting into physical activity, but in many cases, you have to factor in that the parents are overweight as well and maybe not making the best food choices in the home.
Solution starts at home
So how do we reverse these trends? If I had an easy answer on how to fix this, boy, I would be famous and would happily share my secret remedy with everybody.
Since we don’t have that silver bullet yet, what I tend to recommend is the parents have to set the tone for the household. That’s an important first step. For children to see their mom and dad making physical activity an important part of their day will help them realize it needs to be important for them as well.
The second step is to limit a child’s screen time, and by that I mean television, computers, games and all hand-held devices.
More time to play
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting screen time to little or none in kids under age 2 and no more than one to two hours of quality programming or education games for kids age 2 through school age. Imagine how much extra time we would all have if we limited our screen time to two hours per day. For school age kids, the AAP also recommends at least one hour of exercise per day at a minimum, which gives us a goal.
Survey actual screen time
Here’s my challenge to all parents: take a week and log exactly how much screen time your kids are getting per day. I think you might be surprised by the real number.
Once you have a week’s worth of information, you then have to decide what you are going to do to change things around the house. Leading by example, as we all know, is one of the most powerful tools when it comes to getting anyone to do something new.
Create some family time
So get out and do something as a family. Turn the TV off after dinner and go for a walk down your street. Let the kids ride their bikes while you walk. Do whatever you think the kids will enjoy. Parents, it’s up to you to listen to your children and see what the child would enjoy doing. If it is being praised while playing organized soccer, then that’s wonderful. Maybe it needs to be a walk with the parents. Both are good, but if the child doesn’t enjoy it, they won’t want to do it.
My parents and I have always been runners, but I know that’s not going to be the right fit for everyone. Encouraging kids to be involved in after-school activities and sports is certainly a great place to start, but parents have to follow that up by being involved and supportive.Share this Article