The affect of television on childrens’ behavior has been a matter of curiosity for many years. Now that video games, phones, iPads, and computers are so prolific, the overall influence of “screen time” has become a major concern among parents and experts. Most notably, screen time was found to be directly correlated to obesity, and childhood obesity in particular.
At first glance, one assumes that inactivity while watching TV or playing video games is the culprit influencing obesity in children. In reality, it is a multi-layered issue. Firstly, inactivity does play a role, but it is contributed to by the fact that children are often eating while watching TV. Since their attention is focused on the television, rather than their food, they are likely eating more than their body requires. While these two influences are significant, it is the role of advertising that hammers the final nail in the coffin. Food advertisements are prolific and do not serve the best interest of children watching them. Food companies push the foods that have undergone the most processing, which incidentally coincide with the least healthy options.
- Keep the TVs in family areas and out of the kids’ bedrooms.
- Know what your kids are watching. Preview the show before the children see it, or devote at least the first few minutes to determine whether or not the show they’re viewing is appropriate.
- When watching TV with your kids, discuss what you’re seeing. Many programs provide opportunities for parents to share their beliefs about a variety of subjects, such as underage drinking, family life, differences among people, and so much more.
- Encourage your child to do something (other than snacking) while watching TV – work on a puzzle, color with crayons, knit, build a model airplane. Kids may find that the project at hand is more interesting than what’s on the boob tube.
- Turn off the TV before school, at mealtime, and while the kids are doing homework.
- Turn it off as soon as a program is over, rather than surf the channels looking for something else to watch.
Cool suggestions from parents
- “Growing up we were never allowed to take food out of the kitchen or dining room. Not only did this prevent us from consuming food while watching TV, but also it created healthy, mental boundaries around food. Food became connected to meal time not play time.” Elizabeth K.
- “In order to earn the privilege of TV or video games the kids have to spend time being physically active.” Alan R.
- “Consider limiting your child’s access to different screens. So many homes are overrun with computers, phones, and iPads. For kids, it’s a matter of turning on YouTube in the bedroom or grabbing their personal iPod touch to easily consume entertainment without their parent’s awareness.” Karen A.
Setting healthy standards can influence your child’s relationship to TV throughout his or her life, and there are a growing number of resources meant to support parents. TV’s, and other devices, can be set to require a password – thereby requiring express permission each time they are turned on. Even GeoPalz offers an option for kids to earn screen time by first expending energy, at least 10,000 steps a day!