Screen-Free Week: Turn off that TV

by Angela Douglas, Certified Personal Trainer and Group Fitness Instructor

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), children and teens ages 8-18 spend nearly four hours daily in front of the TV and an additional two hours on the computer and playing video games.

To some, this may seem harmless. However, when we add the hours of TV watched by our children per week, per month and per year, how much of this time was truly beneficial and how much was fruitless? Unfortunately, many children would rather watch TV and play video games than go outside and play, or participate in sports.

Many studies, including those by KFF and the American Academy of Pediatrics, conclude that excessive TV watching may create poor behaviors such as violence, underage drinking, smoking and obesity. These poor behaviors could also cause long-term effects due to the sedentary lifestyle adapted by our children.

A major problem caused by a sedentary lifestyle is obesity. Kids tend to be less active and apt to snack more freely while in front of the TV. With the effects of obesity come diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the long-term effects will worsen when that child approaches adulthood. 

So, what can we do to protect our kids from this “pending doom?” Just turn it off! Yes, just turn off the tube for one week.

“TV Turn Off Week” is the last week of April. This can be a great time to create family time and bond strengthening. Create activities that everyone can do together. Here are a few suggestions:

:: Take the kids out on a scavenger hunt in the neighborhood
:: Teach them games from your childhood, like Hopscotch, Hula Hoop, Hide and Seek, or Tag. 
:: Rollerblade in the park
:: Go for a nature walk
:: Prepare meals together and share those meals at the table. 

Of course, there will be resistance from the older kids, but stay firm! It’s only a week (right?). Who knows; this may be something you become accustomed to and start to employ on a more frequent basis.