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Through First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative, the nation is focusing on the fight to prevent childhood obesity. One of the initiative’s goals is to limit the time your child spends watching television and using other screen media. Let’s Move offers the following guidelines regarding screen time:
Talk to Your Family. Let your family, especially your children, know that it is important to be healthy. One way to do this is by being more physically active. It is suggested that children have no more than two hours of screen time per day – this includes television and computer time. Exceptions can be made for work or homework. TV time should not be used as a reward or punishment. This can only place a higher emphasis on TV.
Set Screen Time Limits and a Good Example. Establish house rules limiting screen time for everyone. Limit your TV time to two hours a day. If you follow the rules, your children are more likely to follow your example.
Log Screen Time vs. Active Time. If you’re not sure how your family measures up, you can track your TV time versus your active time. Log how much time your family spends in front of a screen –TV, video game, computer, or other. Then compare it to how much time your family spends doing physical activities - walking, active chores or playing sports. After comparing the logs, you can sit down as a family and discuss goals to decrease your TV time and increase your activity. You can find both a screen time log and a goal tracker on the Let’s Move! website.
Be Active During Screen Time. When you are spending time in front of the television, you can still be active. You can stretch, practice yoga, walk on a treadmill, or lift weights. Make commercial breaks a contest to see who can do the most push-ups or jumping jacks.
Understand TV Ads. We all know that the ads on TV appeal to many of our senses. You may notice more “I wants” and “Can we haves” after certain commercials. It is important to help your children understand that just because they saw a commercial with a particular item, or even if their favorite character likes that item, it doesn’t mean that it’s good.
Create Screen-Free Bedrooms. Your child does not need to have a television or computer in his room. Children who have televisions in their room typically watch 1.5 more hours than children without one their room. Children with televisions in their room are more likely to spend less time with the rest of the family.
Provide Alternatives. Watching television can become a habit that’s hard to break. Make sure your children are aware of the alternatives available to them – playing outside, learning a new hobby, or participating in sports.
Focus on Family Time During Meals. Use family meal time as talk time. Make eating together a goal and try to do so two to three times a week. It is suggested that families that eat together eat more nutritiously.
Establishing good habits at home will help your family carry on these practices day to day. The Let’s Move initiative reaches out to schools, child care programs and communities. When the information your child receives from important areas of their life are consistent, they will be more likely to retain the habits, skills, and lessons they are being taught.
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