NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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TV, Kids & Weight

TV & Kids & Weight

            The percentage of overweight children in the United States is growing at an alarming rate, with some sources considering 1 out of 3 American children to be overweight or obese.

            As for the amount of time kids spend exercising – no surprise, it’s falling.  We know that obesity is linked to heart disease and diabetes, among others diseases and know that those are choices we would not make for our children.

            One of the biggest contributors to this trend is another rising statistic - the amount of time children spend in front of the TV, computer or video game.  The average child today watches four or more hours of television every day. Since nearly half (48 percent) of all families with children have all four of the latest media staples - TV, VCR, video game equipment and computer - the likelihood is that a lot of time is spent sitting in front of a screen. So, how can you minimize screen time without wrecking havoc in your home?

            The answer, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, is to find fun, positive activities that children enjoy and to smartly manage their screen time. Parents today have a responsibility to be informed about their child's health and well-being and, if necessary, take steps to intervene on the child's behalf. Here are some things you could do -  

            It's all about balance. You've heard over and over again the importance of eating right and exercising. Additionally, talk to your child about the importance of balancing screen time against active time. It's certainly more healthful to move more. Suggest riding a bike or kicking a soccer ball around with friends. Phrase your suggestions in a positive rather than a punitive tone. Being active outdoors with friends should be something to look forward to doing.

            The parent makes the rules. If necessary, set a limit on the amount of screen time each child can have. And most importantly, be consistent. If you subscribe to the recommended "no more than 2 hours a day of screen time rule," be certain that's what happens. A short amount of time playing video games - or watching television or videos is acceptable, but it shouldn't be excessive.

            Make television less important. One of the most important things you can do is to keep the television or the computer out of the child's bedroom. If it's already there, remove it. It's difficult to monitor screen time when the child is isolated from the rest of the family. Think about the great family time that isn't happening if your child is in another part of the house absorbing whatever the television or computer has to offer.

            Meal time is family time. It's tempting to include television in family meal time, but when that happens more than occasionally, it robs the family of important time to interact and grow together. Also, research has shown that families that eat together eat healthier meals. Make it fun to have family conversations and share the day's happenings without the interference of television. Try to schedule family meals at least three times a week or more.

            Be a positive role model. No doubt you've heard this before, but your own behavior speaks volumes to your child. If you enjoy hours and hours of screen time yourself, it's going to be hard to convince your child about the importance of limiting screen time. Kids love spending time with their parents and screen time interferes with that special time together.

            Get active. Another fun thing you can do with your child is use the time during commercials to get active. Do jumping jacks or toe touches to help get the wiggles out of your kids and help them burn calories, too. Help them understand why it's not a good idea to be a couch potato.


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