By Rich Gustafson, MD
If your kids are like most, they may have increased their entertainment-based screen time over the summer. Although I would prefer if children never had recreational screen time, the reality is that both kids and adults love their screens.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children and teens should engage in no more than one or two hours per day of recreational screen time. I believe this is still too much. Studies have shown that excessive media use can lead to obesity, sleep and eating disorders, difficulty in school, and other health problems.
Here are some ways you can help your kids reduce the time they spend on electronic devices.
Establish times and places for electronics.
There should be no electronics in your child’s room. Keep TVs and computers in common areas and always monitor use. Set reasonable but firm times when kids are allowed to have entertainment-based screen time, and stick to them! Entertainment media should be avoided all together for children under 2 years old.
Invest in other forms of entertainment.
The brain is a muscle; it has been shown that your brain can become smarter and stronger with brain exercise, such as free play, reading, writing, arts and crafts, puzzles, playing instruments, and learning languages. So have a game night instead of a movie night. Go to the library and when you get home, build a fort for a reading party. Set up an arts and crafts area with paper, crayons, paints and glitter glue. Make games, puzzles and books easily accessible in your child’s room.
We are fortunate to live in Colorado, where outdoor play is possible throughout the year, so take advantage of it! Kick the ball, walk the dog, rake the leaves, and jump in the puddles. I guarantee the whole family will feel better after some time in the great outdoors.
Model positive “screen-time” behavior.
It’s no secret that kids learn best by watching what we do rather than what we say. Make sure all TVs, computers and phones are turned off during meals. When you are watching TV together, make the screen time positive by discussing plot, characters and asking relevant questions.
Sell your TV!
Ok, this may seem like a drastic measure to some, but I encourage you to consider it. I got rid of my own TV, and my 3 year old is incredibly busy and entertained without one.
Reducing screen time is not easy, and you may face some bumps along the way. But it will make a positive difference in your child’s growth and development. Remember, we’re always here to help if you have questions or concerns. Now grab your kids and go outside!