With Summer Vacation Nearly Here, Finding Ways to Keep the Kiddos Active Can Be a Chore
It’s that time of year again: summer vacation. Although your kids can’t wait to veg out in front of the TV and spend all night playing video games, parents are faced with a dilemma on how much we should let our children indulge while out of school.
If you let them spend 12 hours a day on YouTube and video games, you likely will be greeted by a child with blood-shot eyes and his or her head in a fog – a troubling sight for any parent after a long day at work. However, banning screen time completely will likely lead to a battle no one wants.
So, what are parents to do to, and what limits should we be enforcing?
Screen time, such as watching TV, playing on the computer or playing video games, is a sedentary activity, which is the primary concern. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, most children in the United States spend about 5 to 7 hours a day in front of a screen; however, cell phone use is forcing these numbers much higher.
How can too much screen time impact a child? In addition to ongoing concern over what children are doing online and how they may be influenced by what they are watching, too much screen time can:
- Make it hard for your child to sleep at night
- Raise the risk of attention problems, anxiety and depression
- Raise the risk of gaining too much weight and childhood obesity
- Impact educational development
Current Screen Time Guidelines:
- Children under age 2 – no screen time
- Children aged 2-5 years – no more than an hour a day
- Children aged 5-18 years – no more than two hours a day.
How to Cut Down on Screen Time?
- Remove the TV or computer from your child’s room.
- Do not watch TV during meals, sit down at the table and talk instead.
- Do not allow children to snack while playing games or watching TV.
- Stop keeping the TV on for background noise – quiet can be a good thing.
- Bring back family game night.
- Go for a bike ride with your kids after work or plan weekend outdoor activities to get them outside and active.
- Go to the public library and enroll in a summer reading program. The prizes for making achieving their reading goal can be great fun.
- If you have an older child, encourage them to read during the summer as a way to get ahead on reading requirements once school starts and they get very busy learning a new routine.
- Set a consistent bedtime so children get needed rest.
- Consider enrolling your child in activities such as karate, dance or local sports team.
- Look for a camp that will entertain them during the summer such as swim camp or a STEM camp held at a local community college.
- Give children a few chores to do such as cleaning up their room or sweeping out the garage.
- Give them a challenge such as writing a funny story or poem.
- Encourage their creativity by having them invent a new animal and drawing it.
- Help them build something out of toothpicks, Legos or cardboard boxes.
- Go camping and ban all electronic devices.
Experts urge parents to set guidelines that work best for their child; however, the key is to monitor and be on the lookout for excessive screen time use before it becomes a problem.