Ever since the dawn of television, parents have been concerned about limiting the amount of time their kids spend in front of a screen. They worried that their brains would rot, or at the very least, they would lose all interest in school, athletics, and other worthy pursuits. Fast forward to today. Television may actually have become the least of our screen-related problems. Kids today have video games, hand held games, computer games, social networking, and smartphones. That’s a lot of screen time.

Parents have good reason to be concerned. According to Virgil, “the greatest wealth is health”. According to the Mayo Clinic, there are many unhealthy effects of too much time in front of a screen:

  • Obesity – The childhood obesity rate has more than tripled since 1980. Children who spend more than 2 hours a day engaged in sedentary screen time are more likely to be overweight than their more active friends.
  • Behavioral Problems – School age children who spend more than 2 hours a day in front of a screen are more likely to have social, emotional, and attention problems in school.
  • Poor Academic Performance – Children who have televisions and computers in their bedrooms perform worse on standardized tests than children who do not.
  • Sleep Problems – The more time children spend in front of a screen during the day, the more difficulty they have falling asleep at night.

With the all the screens ready and waiting to take over our kids’ lives, we as parents need to be prepared to enforce limits on the amount of time they are used. I’m a parent. I know this is far easier said than done. My house has been the site of many a battle over one more episode of SpongeBob, or one more level of Plants vs. Zombies. No one wants to fight the same fight over and over. I keep thinking there’s got to be an easier way that doesn’t always digress to a “Yes!” “No!” “Yes!” “No!” screaming match.

While it does require a bit of effort, I think I have found a more effective way to limit screen time while maintaining relative household peace. The concept is simple, though the implementation does require a little creativity and commitment. I call it my Give Them Something Else to Do strategy. Catchy, isn’t it?

Here’s how it works: give them something else to do. Really. It’s that simple. The tricky part is finding something they’ll like, something that’ll catch on. I’ve found two ways that work pretty well for me.

Do It With Them

Instead of saying “go outside and play,” I say “I’m going outside to play. Wanna come?” They almost always do. We may bring a ball, or just play tag or hide-and-seek. Sometimes kids from the neighborhood join us and we put together a game of kick the can. It really is just leading by example, and it really does work. If you just tell them to do something, their human nature finds them resisting. But if you say you’re going to do something, they think if they don’t join you, they may miss out on something fun.

Team Sports

Kids love playing on a team. If they’ve got an idea what they want to play, let them choose. If not, choose for them. Depending on your area, there are tons of sports available. My personal favorite is soccer. Kids can start young developing foot skills and learning the concept of playing on a team. It’s great exercise. And it’s the most popular sport in the world. Maybe the most exciting part though is when their new soccer team uniform package arrives.  They’ll beam with pride knowing that they’re officially part of the team.

Just like television before them, video games, the internet, and texting are not going away. While they have their purposes, it is up to us as parents to limit their negative effect on our kids. In my experience, active kids just have less time to waste.

Bio

Teresa Opara is an accountant, a mom, and a soccer enthusiast. One way she expresses her passion is by promoting new custom designed soccer uniforms available through reputable online stores.

Image source: healthdetails.org

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