Back in the good old days… Or just 10 years ago…

Before the iphone, ipads and even the internet, I played outside as a child. I got all the exercise I needed riding my bike, running in the street or jump roping.  

Now our children spend more time inside than ever before, often missing out on the valuable exercise they need. Exercise in many cases has been replaced by media.

Do you know how much TV your kids watch in any given day? What about how much time spent playing video games? Playing on the computer? Listening to music?

According to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, you may be surprised. From 1999 to 2009, the media exposure in a typical day for 8- to 18-year-olds increased from 3 hours to a shocking 10.5 hours a day! The study found the number one media use to be TV content, but kids are starting to consume it differently through DVR, iPods, or cell phones.  Although live TV consumption is slightly down, total TV-content consumption has increased.

 

Why should we, as parents, care?

For starters, kids that have excessive screen time do not as as well at school.  On average, 80% of kids said that they use some form of media while they are do homework.  All the excess “noise” can distract kids from learning, which affects their performance.

 

Secondly, kids are missing out on exercise they used to get from playing outside, which also affects general health, school performance and their moods.

 

Technology can affect sleep.  Blue light emitted from devices can suppress melatonin and can affect your sleep quality and ability to fall asleep. As we all know, sleep deprived kids are not a good thing!

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) are so concerned about kids and screen time that they have recently released new guidelines.  The AAP suggest that kids 2-5 years old are only exposed to one hour of screen time per day.  For children 6 years and older they suggest that parents assist their kids to prioritize productivity over entertainment.  School, homework, one hour of physical activity, social interaction and sleep should all be more important than screen time.

 

What can we do as parents?

  1.     Limit the hours per day that our child(ren) may consume media. Some media has parental controls where the media actually switches off after so many hours.  Avoid your kids using technology at least 30 minutes before bed so your kids can get a great sleep.
  2.   Set a great example as parents and use digital media in a healthy way.  Make sure you disconnect from digital media when interacting with your family.
  3.    Create media free places and times in your house.  For my family, the kids can’t take their devices to their bedrooms or down into the basements.  By 9pm every evening my teenagers have to hand in their phones for the night.  Family dinner is also a no phone zone.
  4.     Get kids to join a sporting team or create an active goal for them (such as completing a longer hike, running a 5K or biking a certain distance) When kids are busy, and active they will have less time for screen time.
  5.   Encourage your kids to spend outside.  Provide equipment to encourage outdoor activities such as bikes, frisbies, and bug catchers.  Get them involved in a veggie garden and spend time together as a family outside.

 

This week, look at how many hours your kids are spending in front of media. Have a family meeting, and discuss what amount of time spent in front of screens is the most effective.

Block out 30-60 minutes, minimum, each day for your children to do something active. Whether it’s riding bikes, running an obstacle course, playing a sport, or doing a quick routine of low-impact exercises, just make sure it elevates their heart rate, burns a few calories and, most importantly, gets them off the couch.

I want you to think back to your own childhood… What are your fondest memories? Was it inside watching a TV show, or was it that day at the park spent playing soccer with the family and having a picnic?

Help make these memories with your kids. They deserve it!

Rachel

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