A recent study showed that over 48% of American households with children ages 2-17 have a TV, a VCR/DVD Player-Recorder, a Gaming Console, and at least 1 computer with an internet connection. Since this study, the level of children’s activity has decreased, while the level of obesity in children has doubled. These studies have shown that children are spending an average in excess of 4-1/2 hours every day in front of some kind of screen, instead of engaging in a normal, healthy physical activity, such as sports and games. The studies date from the early 2000s, so the problem is probably much worse in the year 2014, since we can now add smart phones, Android tablets, ipads, and iphones to the list.
Other studies have shown that there is a direct correlation between the amount of screen time children get, and the incidences of obesity and being overweight. There is also an inverse correlation between the amount of screen time children get, and the level of physical activity they participate in.
These factors, coupled with the poor nutrition currently prevalent in the US, constitute a real health risk to your children, according to the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Ga. The incidences of high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, sleep apnea, gall bladder disease, and hypertension in children are increasing at an alarming rate.
Fortunately, there are ways you can help prevent any of this from happening to your children. The American Academy of Pediatrics has several recommendations:
- Remove TVs, computers, and other media devices from your child’s bedroom.
- Place limits on how much media time your children can engage in daily. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 2 hours per day, total.
- Watch media with your children, both to monitor the content, and to discuss it with them afterwards.
- Provide alternate entertainment activities, especially those that require both physical activity, and social interaction. Good examples are joining Community Clubs and sports teams, playing mild sports with family members and friends, such as badminton, croquet, horseshoes, sandlot sports, hiking, camping, fishing, or even just doing yard work and chores together, like washing the car, or planting a garden.
Children learn by example, so you may want to consider cutting back on your own screen time, as well. Instead of trying to catch the latest episode of Lost, play games with your children, teach them to cook, and do housework, go for a short nature walks, shoot some hoops in the yard, play Catch, chase lightning bugs (but turn them loose unharmed when you are through looking at them…), look for nightcrawler worms for tomorrows fishing trip, etc… Use your imagination.
It’s tough controlling screen time, especially in this day of social media and texting. You should start intervention as early as possible. Teaching them good habits when they are young will make it easier for them to adopt better habits when they get into their teens. Getting your children involved in sports, dancing, art, music, and even volunteer work are excellent ways to help your children develop healthier and more rewarding lifestyles.
Exercising control, and using your imagination will create a wholesome, nurturing environment, and you won’t have to worry if your children are getting too much screen time…