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Don’t Grow Couch Potatoes

Kids need at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily. Parents, you can help your children fit in that activity by limiting their screen time.

"Screens can occupy children for hours, stealing their motivation to be up and active," said Trent Russell, M.D., MHA, FAAP, a pediatrician at Lake Regional's Eldon and Osage Beach clinics. "Too much inactivity puts children at risk for numerous health problems, from cardiovascular disease and diabetes to depression and anxiety. Kids need to spend time moving to be healthy."

The following tips from the National Institutes of Health can help parents help their children swap screen time for more active fun.

Talk to Your Family

Explain to your kids that it's important to sit less and move more in order to be healthy. Tell them they'll have more energy and gain fun skills, such as riding a bike or shooting hoops.

Set Screen Time Limits

Create a house rule that limits screen time to two hours every day. More importantly, enforce the rule.

Be a Good Example

You need to be a good role model and limit your screen time to no more than two hours per day, too. If your kids see you following your own rules, they'll be more likely to see the rules as necessary and good.

Create Screen-free Bedrooms

Don’t put a TV or computer in your child’s bedroom. Kids who have TVs in their rooms tend to watch about 1.5 hours more TV a day than those who don't. Plus, it keeps them from spending time with the rest of the family.

Provide Other Options

Watching TV can become a habit, making it easy to forget what else is out there. Give your kids ideas for fun ways to be active, as well as the needed equipment, such as balls, hula hoops or a swing set. Yard too small for much action? The lake area has many wonderful parks. Go exploring!

Don’t Use Screen Time as Reward or Punishment

This practice makes screens seem even more important to children.

Log Screen Time vs. Active Time

Start tracking how much time your family spends in front of a screen, including TVs, phones and computers. Then take a look at how much physical activity you get. You'll get a sense of what changes need to be made. Click here for a sample log.

"You want your family to be more aware of how they are spending their time," Dr. Russell said. "Talking about screen use and setting limits will encourage children to think about their habits and help them make better choices."