Summer Fun: Limit Screen Time to Get Kids Outdoors

You may have noticed that childhood nowadays looks a little different than it used to. In a world full of technology, TV, and video games, it can be easy for kids to get wrapped up in screen time and forget about the outside world. And in fact, research shows that kids of this generation spend less time playing outdoors than their parents did, largely because of technology (1).

This commercial from Nature Valley highlights some of the differences between kids back in the day and kids now (2). 

Obviously, times are changing. But what are some of the downsides of children spending too much time with technology?

Downsides of Screen Time

While technology in and of itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing, there are definitely some costs that come with too much screen time, especially at younger ages (3). Too much screen time can…

  • replace time spent learning valuable life skills like tying shoes or riding a bike,
  • frighten young kids (causing nightmares and negatively impacting sleep quality),
  • lead to poor sleep and behavioral issues (especially when kids pick up inappropriate behaviors and habits from the characters they watch on tv), and
  • harm attention span (and is thus connected with poor academic performance).

(For more information about the harmful effects of too much screen time and inappropriate content, see the American College of Pediatricians’ statement The Impace of Media Use and Screen Time on Children and Adolescents (4).)

Upsides of Time Outside

While too much screen time can do some damage, playing outside has so many benefits (5)! Spending significant time outdoors…

  • provides important exposure to sunlight,
  • gives more opportunity to experience failure and success,
  • increases physical activity,
  • improves immune system, and
  • helps expand attention span.

Time outside can help your children develop physically and socially. So it’s important that screen time doesn’t cut into that essential outdoor play time.

But what can you do to help your kids get out more?

How to Get Outside More

Limiting screen time and increasing outdoor play time may seem like wishful thinking. But here are a few real life ways you can help your kids get outside more often.

  • Set limits on screen time. Current recommendations suggest that kids under age 2 have little to no screen time. Kids ages 2 to 5 should have no more than an hour a day of high-quality programs. And children of any age should have limits both on how much and what kind of media they use (6).
  • Explore nearby parks. When was the last time you went to play in the park? Take your kids to explore parks nearby and enjoy playing on the playground, flying a kite, or even just having a picnic.
  • Find fun in every season. Whether it’s planting a garden in the spring or making snow angels in the winter, find fun activities for each season of the year! Just make sure to dress for the weather so kids don’t get too hot or cold.

As you reign in time spent on technology and create more opportunities to play outside, you’ll help your children in so many ways. As the Nature Valley commercial puts it, “Nature has always been a part of childhood. Let’s make sure it doesn’t stop with us” (7). So start today to help your kids get off the tablet and get moving outside!

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Picture retrieved from https://pixnio.com/people/children-kids/two-caucasian-and-two-african-american-children-playing-together.

References

1. Clements, R. (2004). An investigation of the status of outdoor play. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 5(1), 68-80. Retrieved from http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.2304/ciec.2004.5.1.10

2. Tusa, L. (2015, July 25). Would your kids respond in the same way as these kids? Raises an interesting [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?time=0&v=1XDVDyDJ3s0

3-4. American College of Pediatricians. (2016, November). The impact of media use and screen time on children, adolescents, and families. Retrieved from

https://www.acpeds.org/the-college-speaks/position-statements/parenting-issues/the-impact-of-media-use-and-screen-time-on-children-adolescents-and-families

5. Bento, G., & Dias, G. (2017, October). The importance of outdoor play for young children’s healthy development. Porto Biomedical Journal, 2(5), 157-160. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2444866416301234

6. American Academy of Pediatrics announces new recommendations for children’s media use. (2016, October 21). Retrieved from American Academy of Pediatrics website: https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/pages/american-academy-of-pediatrics-announces-new-recommendations-for-childrens-media-use.aspx

7. Tusa, L. (2015, July 25). Would your kids respond in the same way as these kids? Raises an interesting [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?time=0&v=1XDVDyDJ3s0

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