Can Reducing Screen Time Save Kids and the Planet?

June 21st, 2012

Parents may use the excuse that their kids are glued to the newest fun gadget, so they can’t reduce their screen time, but researchers from Oregon State University have a different idea.

The research involving 200 families was published online today in Early Childhood Development and Care as part of their series on parental influences of childhood obesity.

According to the new findings, parents with a “neglectful” style of parenting are contributing to excessive screen time. Parents who reported not spending as much time at home with their kids had children who spent an additional 30 minutes each week day looking at a screen. (This is on top of the four to five hours of waking time all kids spent sitting each day.)

While 30 minutes may not sound too bad, researchers point out that it can have a big impact over a week, month and year. “One child may be getting up to four hours more active play every week, and this sets the stage for the rest of their life,” says lead author David Schary.

Disturbingly, researchers found that on average, all kids in the study ages 2 to 4 spent more than several hours sitting each day. Researchers say that parents who actively played with their children had the biggest impact on reducing sedentary behavior, but that any level of encouragement is helpful, even just watching kids play or driving them to activities.

Naturally, getting kids to be more active will have a positive impact on their health, but turning off the TV or other electronic devices also has a side benefit of reducing your energy consumption, making the earth a bit healthier as well.

For more on reducing screen time, and saving money and energy doing it, skip over to Growing a Green Family, where Jennifer is trying to reduce her family’s screen time.

How do you encourage your children to be more active?

image via flickr/stars alive