Monday, June 11, 2012

Screen Time for Kids

During my oldest son's last check up, our pediatrician asked him "About how many hours of screen time a day do you log?" To which he quickly countered with the question, "Do you mean before school, after school, or total for the whole day?" Arghh! I forgot to counsel him on how to answer this question before the appointment.

Now that he is 10, the doctor no longer looks to me for a response. She knows Daniel is fully capable of answering the litany of questions before she begins the physical. She also knows that she'll get a more truthful response from him than from his mother, who will modify her answers to pass the test.  You know the drill...How many fruits and veggies do you eat in a day? How many times a week do you sit at the dinner table with your family? Do always wear safety helmet when riding your bike? etc.....

I know exactly how to answer these questions in a (mostly) truthful manner and still pass the test.  My kid...well, he just gives a 100% honest response with absolutely no regard for how this reflects upon me. Thanks for nothing!

Now that summer is here, managing screen time is even more of a challenge.  Here are some stats to help you put into perspective just how unhealthy it is:

- By the age of seven, a child born today will have watched one full year, 24 hours a day, of screen media.

-Since 1999, the amount of screen time for kids has doubled to nearly 7 hours per day.

-Studies have shown that children who watch TV or play video games for 2 or more hours a day are 60% more likely to have social, emotional, and concentration problems.  They are also more likely to be obese.

-The negative effect of too much screen time cannot be significantly diminished with physical activity.

-Children with televisions in their bedrooms tend to perform worse on academic tests than those who do not.

Ok...if you're like me, you may read these statistics and take satisfaction if they do not apply to your kid. But let's face it, the arguments against too much screen time far outweigh the benefits.

So how to we manage to keep our kids busy and productive this summer, and still maintain our sanity without the crutch of the TV?  Here are some of my ideas:

-Let your kids earn screen time by reading.  For every hour of reading, that equates to an hour of screen time.

-Hide the iTouches and use them for specific situations only (i.e. long car rides, waiting rooms, etc.).  When I tell my kids turn off the Xbox, I find them simply moving to their handheld devices, so I've got to put a stop to it now!

-Have mandatory black-out periods for screen time during the summer. For example, no TV, computer, or video games between 11:00 a.m. and 7 p.m. 

-Give your kids LOTS of responsibilities around the house this summer.  My 10 year old mows the lawn and my 8 year old puts away the laundry.  Fill their days with chores. It will give them a sense of satisfaction if you stick with it.

-Stock your home with supplies for lots of summer fun. Crafts, cooking and baking, reading, painting, play dough, water guns etc.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that kids will naturally gravitate to the easiest, most stimulating (in a bad way) activity- video games, TV, and computers.  I, for one, need to break this bad habit so that next time we are at the pediatrician's office, Daniel's honest response will make me proud!

Sweet Reading! Karen Gallagher

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