rear view of a girl pointing remote to a television

Video games, laptops, cell phones, iPads, televisions – the 24/7 access that our kids have to these devices is keeping them engaged in the active world at increased levels of personal inactivity.  These increased levels of inactivity are leaving our children at risk of sedentary and unhealthy lifestyles.  How can we, as parents, help our kids take a time out from the screen? Here are some simple and practical ideas:

1.       Set a timer. Allow your child a specified amount of time (i.e. 30 minutes) to access the screen at one sitting.  When the timer goes off, your child must pause what he/she is doing and do something active. This can be as simple as doing 25 jumping jacks, dancing to a few favorite songs, taking the dog out for a walk, etc. This will help your child to keep from sitting sedentary for lengths of time.

2.       Set a One to One Ratio.  Discuss and decide with your child how much time is reasonable to spend per day on screened devices. Then, have your child commit to spending the SAME amount of time doing something physically active. For example, if you both agree that two hours of screen time per day is acceptable, then the child must commit to two hours of physical activity per day.

3.       Chart it out. Create a daily chart where your child will record the screen time spent and the physical activity time spent.  Set up weekly rewards to be earned when the physical activity time outweighs the screen time.  Ideas for rewards can include silly string, glow sticks, a pair of crazy socks, a cool water bottle (all these things can be purchased at the dollar store).

4.       Bucket list.  Have an “electronics” bucket placed prominently in the family room, kitchen, etc.  When it is time to do something active or eat dinner as a family, etc., have everybody put their screen devices in the bucket. All devices can be retrieved after the activity is complete.

5.       Un-multi-task. Have everybody turn off or silence all screen devices while involved with family meals, game times, talk times.  If needed, take an agreed upon “break” from the family interaction to check phones, etc. but then go right back to un-multi-tasking until the family activity is complete.

6.       Be the Role Model.  This is probably the most effective way to help our kids take a time out from the screen!  Our kids take their cues from and learn what to do from our behaviors.  So, modeling our ability and willingness to take a time out from our screens will help in our attempts to motivate our kids toward a healthier and more active lifestyle!