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Childhood Obesity & Technology – What’s the connection?

POSTED BY: Angela Fals, MD

As the demands for our time increase, parents are turning to technology to help keep the kids quiet and busy, allowing them time to focus on making dinner, send a few emails from their smartphone or even just some personal down time.

I know that when it comes to childhood obesity, too much screen time may add to unhealthy habits that can last a lifetime.  In general, kids today prefer spending hours watching TV or playing with their tablet computer instead of heading outdoors to a park or getting active with friends.  

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), children and adolescents should spend a maximum of 1-2 hours of “screen time” per a day.  

AAP has estimated that the average child can spend upwards of 7 hours of TV, internet usage and video games per day!  The scary thought is that everything else is taking a back seat including: quality family time, reading, homework, and exercise.

To help address guidelines for the use of technology with children and teens, the AAP also offers a great web resource on Media and Children.  This website offers advice for parents to help address these concerns and tips for setting limits of use.

Here are the top 3 suggestions from the AAP to help get children and teens off the couch and away from the screen:

  • Make it fun and play with them -- Kids love it when their parents are willing to put themselves out there, fall with them, reach for the balls, make mistakes and laugh together while working up a sweat... all in good fun and spending super quality time together!
  • Plan for it -- In this day and age, if you do not make plans for things, they most likely get pushed off the "to-do" list for the day.  Before you know it, weeks will have passed by and you will have not gotten active!
  • Let them choose their activity.  Kids are way more prone to be active if they are looking forward to it… and who knows? They just might get good at a new skill or sport!

It is not too late to get engaged with your kids to show them the importance of getting away from the screens.  Show them by example… you will all benefit from it.