Limit Screen Time and Get Your Kids (and the Whole Family) Moving

dad and son play indoor soccer at home

Experts recommend that kids get no more than 1 to 2 hours of TV/computer/video games a day. But did you know that the average 8-year-old spends eight hours a day using various forms of media, and teenagers often get more than 11 hours of media a day?

You know your kids need to watch less TV or put down their devices, but you’re dreading the screaming, yelling and crying that may follow telling them to get up and do something. First and foremost, remember YOU are the parent. It’s your job to set healthy limits. We know it’s not easy, but it’s important for their health and well-being. And each child is different, so what works for one child may not work for another.

Here are some ideas about how to limit your family’s sedentary time:

  1. Identify free times for activity during the week. Make time to get the whole family moving.
  2. Make a plan to add physical activity to your daily routine. Be prepared to offer age-appropriate alternatives to TV or video games after school. Make physical activity a regular part of your family's schedule. Write it on a weekly calendar for the whole family.
  3. Be active with your kids. Experts say that what kids want more than anything else is time with their parents. To give them that, don’t just send them out to play — go play with them! Develop a set of activities for you and your family that are always available regardless of weather. Try these easy tips to get active!
  4. Limit TV, computer, smartphone and video game time. Don’t position your furniture so the TV is the main focus of the room. Don’t allow kids to have televisions or video game devices in their bedrooms. And avoid using TV time as a reward or punishment.
  5. Plan TV watching in advance. Pick the shows you want to watch. Turn the TV on for only those shows and turn it off afterwards. Don’t just watch whatever comes on next.
  6. Practice what you preach. Your kids won’t accept being restricted to two hours of screen time if you can veg out for four hours. The best way to influence your kids’ behavior is by being a good role model.

All of these might sound easy enough; they just take a little thought and a lot of practice. Do what you can as often as you can.

Here are some ideas that your kids can do on their own or the whole family can do together:

  • family game night
  • shoot hoops or kick a soccer ball
  • walk the dog
  • explore a nearby park
  • turn on some music and dance
  • do chores that require some physical activity

You can do it! Be strong, have a plan and don’t back down. Your child’s health is worth fighting for.