Turn off the screen, turn on the fun this summer

It’s summer vacation and more free time means more time for video games, television and the Internet. But sedentary behavior (such as whiling away hours watching SpongeBob and Tom and Jerry reruns or posting notes on MySpace) has been proven to be a huge factor in the increase of childhood obesity. Not only are our children not moving as they sit idle in front of the TV or computer screen, but they’re also being periodically bombarded with advertising urging them that it’s always a good time for a salty/sugary/fatty treat.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than one to two hours of quality TV and videos (or video games) a day for older children and no screen time for children under age 2.

Make it a family goal this summer to decrease screen time (this includes Facebook- and game-addicted moms and dads).

  • Decide together as a family a fair amount of time that you’ll all have to spend plugged in each week. Talk to your children about why it’s a good idea to limit screen time (i.e., we can make our own fun memories as a family instead of watching The Family Guy or The Simpsons).
  • Set a good example. How many hours do you spend plugged in?
  • Keep TV sets, VCRs, video games and computers out of children’s bedrooms and in a common family area.
  • Don’t use the TV as background noise. Turn on the radio if you must.
  • Make it a rule that the TV is to be turned off when a friend comes over. Set a reasonable limit for video game time.
  • For summer road trips, leave the handheld video games at home. Your child will learn to enjoy looking out the car window. Research road trip games or listen to an audio book and discuss as a family.
  • Teach your children other ways to unwind. Read a book together or encourage independent reading, listen to music, provide a nice journal and pencils for sketching.
  • Offer alternatives to TV. Go outside and play catch with your child, kick around a soccer ball, unleash the sprinkler, lay out a blanket and play cards under the shade of a tree. Make your own special memories and enjoy the fleeting summer weather together.
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