Not too long ago studies were coming out showing that kids were watching less Tv than ever before. At first glance, this seemed like a great thing, but this information was puzzling when compared to the sky-rocketing obesity rates.
Turns out those researchers forgot one relatively new (at the time) but very important thing - computers. Researchers soon came up with the term “screen time” to refer to all time spent in front of a screen, including computers, video games, cell phones, movies, and of course, Tv. As soon as screen time was taken into account, things changed dramatically.
Newer studies show that, although Tv time is down, screen time is up. Way up. A recent survey found that kids in Grades 6 through 10 spent 5 1/2 hours in front of a screen on week days, and 7 1/2 hours on weekends. That’s a full-time job! Obviously, any time spent in front of a screen is time spent not moving. On top of this there are many hours spent doing other important, but inactive, things such as schoolwork.
In my previous post about television commercials and child weight gain, I explained that television advertising has a strong influence on what children under the age of 12 eat. One good thing (and this may be the only good thing) about non-television screen time is that your child isn’t likely to be exposed to as many commercials targeted at children. However, even this is changing.
Many companies have realized their young audience has migrated from the living room floor to the computer desk, and have shifted their marketing plans accordingly. Big companies such as Nestle, Kraft and McDonald’s are developing websites that are fun for kids, enticing them to play for hours while being bombarded with marketing. For older kids, new studies have shown that teens with more screen time have lower quality relationships and spend even less time with family than other teens.
What you can do:
- Limit all screen time - If you limit Tv time for your kids (and you should be doing this), make sure you include all screen time.
- Find new hobbies - often times kids (and adults) resort to Tv because they’re bored or just want to relax. Brainstorm some other activities you can do with your kids instead of using the Tv or computer, such as playing a board game together or going for a bike ride.
- Be a role model - Just like nutrition, when it comes to screen time, it’s important to set a good example for your kids and minimize your own screen time.