Luring Your Kids Away From the Computer and TV

Luring Your Kids Away From the Computer and TV

If your child is spending too much time in front of the TV or computer and not enough being physically active, it's time to take action.

By Diane Griffith, Staff Writer, myOptumHealth

For years, parents have struggled to keep their kids from watching too much TV. Now, in the age of social networking and gaming, there's the added worry that kids are spending too much time staring at a screen - and not enough being physically active.

Kids spend an average of 6 hours a day watching TV, playing video games or surfing the Internet. If there's a TV in your child's bedroom, chances are he's watching even more TV than that.

Too much TV can expose your child to hundreds of commercials that advertise high-fat, high-sugar, low-nutrient foods. This can be a recipe for weight problems, especially when all that TV and computer time is taking away from hours better spent running, playing sports or just walking with a friend. That means less physical activity, sunshine and fresh air. It also means less face-to-face interaction with peers.

The health risks
The National Institutes of Health recommends that your child spend about 60 minutes a day engaged in some type of exercise, whether it be running, splashing in a pool, climbing a tree or tossing a football.

Studies show that children who spend too much time in front of the TV or computer are at increased risk for becoming overweight or developing high levels of body fat. This can lead to serious health problems, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

Limiting screen time

  • Establish time limits for the TV and computer. Experts warn against children of any age getting more than two hours of media time per day. Setting limits will help your child decide which programs are priorities and how to split time between watching TV and going online. This can also help children develop good time-management skills.
  • Work out a schedule. Talk to children about how to fit homework, physical activity, TV and the computer into their schedule. For instance, your child might spend an hour after school playing with friends, then do his homework. After dinner, he can be free to watch TV, play video games or go online for an hour or two.
  • Talk to your kids about commercials. Explain that not every food product advertised on TV is healthy to eat on a regular basis.
  • Come up with some alternatives. Look into after-school programs or fun classes that can keep your kids busy and out of the house.
  • Encourage social interactions. Urge an older child to play basketball with the neighborhood kids. Take a younger child to the park with a friend.
  • Turn off the TV on Saturday morning. Go outside with your child and show her how to kick a soccer ball or ride a bike. Or pack a lunch and take a trip to the beach or nearest zoo.

Finally, always remember to monitor what your children are watching on TV and doing online. Try your best to steer them towards educational programs and sites. That way, when they aren't exercising their bodies, they can be exercising their minds instead.

Sources:

  • National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. Reduce screen time. Accessed: 06/03/2010
  • University of California San Francisco Children's Hospital. Health risks of overweight children. Accessed: 06/03/2010
  • Mendoza JA, Zimmerman FJ and Christakis DA. Television viewing, computer use, obesity, and adiposity in US preschool children. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. Accessed: 06/03/2010

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