Limit Screen Time - Action for Healthy Kids
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Limit Screen Time

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kids playing basketballDid you know that kids should spend no more than two hours in front of a screen each day? 

Unfortunately, most American children spend about 5 to 8 hours on screens each day. Screen time can be habit-forming: Research shows that the more time children engage with screens, the harder time they have turning them off as they become older children. Plus, screen time has been linked to eating more, having trouble sleeping and poorer performance in school. Here are some ways to limit screen time.

Take Action

Strategies for Schools:

  • Make sure students and families know screen time recommendations and why too much screen time is harmful to their health and performance at school. Share this information in the school newsletter and on the website, social media and other platforms. Post posters around your school and address it in classroom lessons.
  • Do students know how much screen time they have each day? Work with classroom teachers and students to track screen time for a week, and set individualized goals to decrease it.
  • Set school rules about using cell phones, tablets and gaming devices during school. For example, establish recess as a screen-free zone.
  • Celebrate Screen-Free Week to limit screen time and promote physical activity at school and at home.
    • Ask local businesses (theatres, skating rinks, miniature golf courses, bowling alleys, etc.) to offer discounts to students and their families who show a signed a Screen-Free Pledge Card.
    • Work with teachers to pass out pledge cards, physical activity logs and other resources to help students set goals and track activities during the week.
    • During Screen-Free Week, share tips and ideas each day during morning announcements.
    • When the week is over, congratulate students by passing out certificates of achievement. Perhaps the class with the highest participation earns an extra recess!
  • Students with physical limitations are potentially more prone to excessive screen time since being active is sometimes a greater challenge. Determine which activities above will accommodate the skills and abilities of the person that is disabled and include them in the screen-free challenge. They may have restorative exercises that have been prescribed for them.

Strategies for Home:

  • Make bedrooms “no screen zones.” Kids who have TVs in their rooms tend to watch about 1.5 hours more TV per day than those who don’t. Move televisions, computers, tablets, etc. into shared family spaces.
  • Designate one or more days per week as “screen-free” days, where physical activity, reading and spending quality time together are prioritized.
  • Set firm limits for using screens. For example, no video games on school nights or no electronic devices an hour before bedtime.
  • Turn off electronic devices during dinner. Make use of the time together to talk about the day.
  • Get active when you do spend time in front of the TV screen. Stretch, practice yoga, walk on a treadmill or lift weights. Challenge everyone to see who can do the most knee bends or leg lifts during commercial breaks.Create a TV viewing guide with your children, and teach them to schedule out the shows they would like to watch during the week. If you have TiVo or a DVR, record your child’s favorite shows and allow him or her to view them at specific times during the week.
  • When your children’s friends gather at your house, limit the amount of time they play video games. After 20-30 minutes of playing, suggest that the children move on to something else that does not involve a screen, like playing a board game or physical game (including playing outside).
  • Be a good role model and limit your time in front of a screen to no more than two hours per day, too. If your kids see you following your own rules and being active, then they’ll be more likely to follow your example.
  • Make it a game! Place activity ideas in a jar. Whenever the family would typically be on electronic devices, pull an idea out of the jar instead and do it together. Find activity ideas in the Family Activity PointsGame On activity.
  • Try new hobbies. Replace screen time with something more active, or join a club, discover a new talent, or sign up for a hands-on class at your local community center.
    • Avoid leaving the TV on for background noise to reduce the temptation to be in front of the TV (if it is hard not having the TV on, try programming your TV to turn off automatically after a certain period. Or, play music or white noise as an alternative).
  • Avoid using electronic devices as a reward or punishment. This makes screens seem even more important. Check out Healthy & Active Non-Food Rewards for other ideas.