It’s the time of year when some kids are getting ready for some serious time looking at their screens, meaning that they intend to play video games and/or watch
Youtube or TV for many hours each day. This leads to much frustration
on the part of parents, at times leading to some screaming and yelling at them to
get off of the tablet, phone or TV and do something else, preferably outside.
Kids will complain that they have nothing else to do. They may say that they
have work hard during school and deserve some time to relax by doing
what they want. They may have excuses that I can’t even come up with.
What can a parent do about this? First it is important that a parent not buy
into whatever rationalization their child is offering to justify the
excessive screen time. It’s helpful for a parent to be informed that studies
documented in the medical literature indicate that prolonged sitting (as
would naturally occur with prolonged video game playing) has been shown to
be associated with increase risk for cardiovascular disease, cancer and
metabolic syndrome. Why encourage a bad habit?
Prolonged sitting has also been shown to cause muscle imbalances and postural
imbalance. The solution seems to be to reduce overall sitting time and to
increase overall movement throughout the day.
Parental cajoling typically doesn’t have the desired effect, however. Parents’ efforts to get their kids
off of the screens at any given moment can lead to arguing and power struggles. At the same
time, I have seen some parents achieve success by limiting the use of the children’s
screens to the weekends when the parents can more easily monitor what their
children are looking at. Parents can also utilize the weekend use of the screens as a
reinforcer for their children’s good behavior during the week. This then is an effective use of
parents’ authority over their children’s behavior.
Another approach for parents to take is to lead by example. I understand that parents can be limited by time and their own level of energy and resources, but within their limitations parents can
demonstrate interest and enthusiasm in activities that give meaning and enjoyment to their own lives. Doing so can serve as a positive example to inspiring their children to take an interest in the world around them beyond their screens.
To answer the complaint that kids have nothing to do, I believe that there are many activities that are available to engage in. I often tell parents to make a list of activities with their children that their children can do on their own when they are feeling bored.
Often these blogs on our website are a minimum of 400 words. I came up with the wild idea of challenging myself to make my own list of 400 activities that parents can engage in (and some for
the kids as well) to demonstrate to their children that our local world in New Jersey is an interesting place offering many activities. Tune in to next month’s blog to see if I can meet my challenge to list 400
activities available to us.
If you would like to hear more about healthy activities, call us at Specialized Therapy Associates at 201-488-6678.