Anytime is the perfect time of year to play outdoors together. According to a 2010 study, children aged 8-18 spend more than 7.5 hours per day using entertainment media. This amount of time differs greatly from the 25 minutes per day children typically spend reading books or the 4 to 7 minutes a day playing outside without structure. Children are carrying this sedentary lifestyle and disconnect with nature into adulthood; as a result, this is altering the future health and wellness of our communities.
Generation Alpha, children born after 2010, have more alternatives to playing outside than any previous generation. From iPads to video games to smart phones, or even the television, this generation seems to have it all at their fingertips.
Screens can entertain, teach, and keep children occupied, however, too much time can have negative effects on children. Too much screen time can lead to inadequate sleep, lower grades in school, reading fewer books, spending less time with friends and family, not enough outdoor or physical activity, elevated BMI, or even mood problems. Too much occupancy with a screen leaves little time for the growth, brain development, and responsibility that is gained from being in nature.
1. Set limits. Sounds simple, right? It’s easy to set limits, but often the limits are unrealistic and quickly disregarded. See chart for screen time recommendations by age.
2. Plan ahead. Sit down with your family and create realistic goals that are displayed in the home. Make certain that your child has a safe and convenient place to play outdoors.
3. Be an example. Be active outdoors with your children. Do activities such as hiking, scavenger hunts, exercise, play games, crafts, or take bike ride.
4. Focus on fun. Keep the activities or time you spend with your children outdoors fun. Don’t overdo it. Do things with your kids they enjoy.
It’s no surprise to anyone that kids are naturally physically active and love to be moving constantly. The challenge for parents is to provide our children with alternatives to screen time by setting screen time limits, planning ahead, being good examples, and most of all, focusing on fun.