In a world, full of television, streaming services, iPads, video games and social media, children of all ages are glued to screens. Luckily, the heroes of the day (Mom, Dad, Grandparents, etc), can rescue kids from too much screen time and help show these young ones how to enjoy active, healthy and happy lives.
Enough with the dramatics, but it is true. The average person in our society spend an alarming amount of time in front of a screen
. A recent study has shown that Americans spend an average of 6 hours and 43 minutes in front of a screen throughout the day. Some quick math shows us this is just over 28% of a full day. Add in 8 hours of sleep (hypothetical) and it translates to 61% of our day spent in front of a screen or asleep. Not much time left to do anything else. While not all screen time is bad (great educational opportunities) it can deter time away from other activities. We’ve established that being active and not sitting for prolonged periods of time is a good thing. It improves our health and overall well being. Humans are creatures of habit. Most of our daily tasks have been predetermined by ourselves at some point and now it is simply the way we do something. Simple example, when washing your hands, do you wet them first or put soda on first? Whichever you do, is it ever different? Let’s now put this into practice with our children and help them create good habits.
The first step, which might be the toughest, is setting strict limits on technology use throughout the day. Easier said than done. There are apps and parental controls that help create automatic shut off times for items. This can be a start, but I would argue it’s better to make the choice to put something down or turn it off, rather than being instructed too.
A trick we’ve done in my household which has worked thus far, is we can only play music during meal time. When we sit down together to eat, we put phones and tablets away, the tv is turned off and we take turns selecting a song to play via a streaming service. As we choose songs, some are simple background music, while other cause a spontaneous, mid-dinner dance party. Sometimes we sing along and really enjoy each other’s company. That has seemed to work for us, it might for you. Find something that your children and you enjoy doing together and schedule out time to do it. This also means that grown ups must put phones down as well. I’m guilty of this myself. When home and going to play with my daughter, I’m holding my phone waiting for a text or email that I need to respond to. I find it neat to just put it in the corner or a drawer and be fully present in the moment.
Run and Walk to Run Errands
My next suggestion may be easier or tougher depending on where you live. I enjoy running and walking while outside. I’d prefer to walk a decent distance to run errands, rather than take the car. Finding ways of getting more walking into the daily routine for both you and your child will be beneficial. The extra time spent ambulatory instead of sitting is a big plus. By also walking, you are conserving gas which saves money and reduces your carbon footprint. The extra time spent outside
is beneficial as well. The fresh air and sunlight are needed for our health. Of course take proper precautions depending on where you live. If you’re reading this in Antarctica, please bundle up. Set a particular goal/reward for the walking as well. It’s a walk to the local cafe to get a treat, maybe it’s the scenic route to find new picturesque settings or places of adventure. There’s a playground roughly a mile from our house. Our daughter loves to go there and play. Instead of driving, we’ll “slowly” stroll over on a Saturday and walk home. This gives us both needed outdoor exercise and time together to talk.
It’s important that we teach our kids these good habits, but we also want them to make these decisions themselves. The way we phrase something, can make all the difference. I’m not telling you to turn it off, I’m asking you because I’m walking over for a slice of pizza. Want to come with? You know it tastes better there.