Power down: How to limit your kids TV time without tears

Extra time at home may have your kids bundled up by the TV a little more (or a lot) more than they should be. A few hours in front of the TV might sound like a great way to keep them happy (not to mention free up time for yourself) but excessive screen time is – no surprise here – harmful to children’s health and development. Childhood obesity is a significant concern across the country and affects approximately 18.9% of Michigan kids aged 10 to 17. And when a kid is parked in front of the TV, he or she is certainly not burning calories. In fact, studies have shown that the more television kids watch, the more likely they are to gain excess weight. That’s why it’s so important for parents to encourage healthier behaviors.

According to the University of Michigan Health System, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that parents limit children’s television intake to one to two hours per day. But busy lifestyles and, let’s face it, the enjoyment you and your kids get out of watching TV might make it tough to follow these guidelines. Try these tips to manage your child’s TV time over the summer and keep your kiddo active, both mentally and physically:

Set firm guidelines: Have an open conversation with your child about why too much TV is unhealthy and how they can get the most out of the one to two hours that they’re allowed each day. A great starting point: Figure out their favorite programs and work those shows into a weekly schedule. Are they Big Bird’s biggest fan? Let them know that Sesame Street is an hour-long show, so while they’re welcome to watch an episode per day, the screen goes dark as soon as it’s over.

Don’t watch and eat: Research shows that eating while watching TV makes kids even more attached to the tube. Rather than tuning into your family’s favorite show or the news at dinnertime, try keeping the remote in the living room and talking instead. It’s a great opportunity for the entire family to stay up-to-date on everyone’s busy lives.

Set a good example: Your lectures about the harmful effects of TV are likely to go in one ear and out the other if you’re still watching hours each day. Be a role model for your child and engage in healthier activities yourself, such as reading. In fact, you and your child can enjoy these fun activities together, strengthening your bond and keeping boredom at bay.

Plan something fun: There are plenty of activities the whole family can do at home without the need for a TV. A little creativity can go a long way in crafting a fun environment for your little ones. If you’re stumped for ideas, check out our list of brain break ideas for kids that gets them moving throughout the day.

Photo credit: Kristen Pahl

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