No doubt most parents have savvy school-aged children who are able to navigate screen time, including the web, program their iPhone, and operate the family plasma TV. That’s all well and good, but how does screen time affect a child’s healthy weight?
It is certainly true that we live in a technological world, and this is obvious in our children. With the advent of advergames (advertisements on video and computer games) and advercation (advertisements on educational websites and games), children are lured to return to the screen to continue playing—but they aren’t playing like they used to! Literally, children are letting their fingers do the walking.
What is screen time?
It is a term to describe the variety of technological devices to which children are exposed for general entertainment. Screen time encompasses anything with a screen–the TV, the Nintendo DS, the computer, the phone, the iTouch, the iPod, and the like.
How does screen time influence a child’s healthy weight?
Researchers show a strong correlation with the number of hours spent watching TV to an increased prevalence of unhealthy weight (or childhood obesity) in children. If your child spends more than 2 hours in front of the TV per day, he/she is at greater risk for being overweight.
The effects of TV viewing and screen time results in overeating and lowered energy expenditure (calorie burning). Have you ever watched a movie with a bowl of popcorn and consumed the entire bowl? The TV is a powerful distraction when it comes to eating sensible amounts.
Additionally, sedentary behavior, or sit-down time, promotes a lower calorie burn than moving the body (activity). It’s simple: TV and screens promote more sit-down time, which results in less activity and possibly overeating, leading to a higher potential for weight gain.
5 Steps to Curb your Child’s Screen Time:
Remove the TV and other screens from the bedroom: Children with TV’s in their bedroom watch a lot of TV! The presence of a TV in a child’s bedroom is one of the leading indicators of excess screen time. Removing the TV and other lurking screens will curtail the number of hours your child is inactive watching TV, playing video games, and laying on the bed listening to the iPod.
Limit all screen time: The recommendation for reasonable screen time is 2 hours per day maximum; homework-oriented, computer time does not fall within these limitations. Each family has unique dynamics and demands on their time—consider parameters around “screen time” limits that will be advantageous to your child, ie., the school week is focused on school work, projects, and educational endeavors.
Start early: Limits on screens should begin as early as 5 years of age. This makes sense–toddlers and pre-schoolers are moving creatures–when we use the TV or “screens” to entertain them, we are training them to be sedentary!
Emphasize hands-on, active endeavors: Cultivate an attitude of “let’s do” rather than “let’s see”. Be an active parent–your children will mimic your active and your sedentary behaviors.
A little bit goes a long way: Any modification and limit you can make around TV and screens will be an improvement! Be realistic with what you can tackle, without too much rebellion from your child. Get “buy in” from your child–if children have other, fun things to do, they will be more accepting of the new screen time limits.
A reduction in screen viewing helps every member of the family and it provides an opportunity to get moving. Help your child let their feet do the walking, not their fingers. Help them have greater opportunities for movement and activity, rather than ample sit-down time.
In the end, too much screen time is counter-productive to a healthy weight.
How much screen time does your child get and is it affecting his or her healthy weight?