Screen time and your Children

Written By: Maha Mortada
Healthy Children Intern
Vanderbilt Children’s Health Improvement and Prevention

“TV.  If kids are entertained by two letters, imagine the fun they’ll have with twenty-six.  Open your child’s imagination.  Open a book.”   Author Unknown

According to the American Heart Association, 1 in 3 children between the age of 2 and 19 is overweight and obese. Screen time is one of the contributing factors to the obesity epidemic in our country. Whether watching TV, surfing the net or playing video games, all of these are behind the poor health conditions of our children. As parents, who truly care about the health and wellness of their children, it is time for you to step up and limit screen times by following these tips.

Practice what you preach – Children are good imitators. You cannot be spending 8 hours a day in front of a screen and expect your children to follow your rules.  Be a good role model by eating a healthy diet, working out on daily basis and engaging in activities other than watching TV such as reading, gardening or volunteering.

Take control – It is hard for you as parents to say “No” sometimes. But remember you’re the one who’s in charge and the decisions you make for your children day in and day out will determine who they will be as grownups.  Be assertive and do not take no for an answer when it comes to your children’s health and wellness.

Set limits on screen time – Children spend more than 28 hours every week watching TV, surfing the net, playing video games and texting. Can you imagine the impact of this sedentary lifestyle on their health and social skills? The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends limiting screen time based on age:

  • Infants ( 0-2  years)-Screen time is not recommended
  • Toddlers ( 2-3 years) – No more than 1/2 hour a day
  • Preschool ( 3-5 years) -  No more than 1 hour a day
  • Kindergarten children (5-6 years) – No more than 1 to 1 ½  hours a day
  • School age children (  6-12 years) -  No more than 2 to 2 ½  hours per day

No TVs in bedrooms… whatsoever – This will help you control the number of hours your children spend watching TV and play video games and will help you monitor the content they are being exposed to.

Create a schedule for surfing the net – Set a time limit to how long your children can use the computer. Password protect your computer and only allow access when needed and under your supervision.

Encourage outdoor activities – Such as gardening, riding bikes, washing the car or playing with the kids next door.  These activities will help your kids stay physically active and will help them maintain a healthy weight.

Encourage other fun alternatives– When it’s rainy and it’s hard to go outside and play, there are many fun indoor activities that you can do as a family such as cooking, painting, reading books, listening to music, dancing and playing games.  Anything is better than staying glued to the screen all day!

How do you limit your children’s screen time?