700 Children's® – A Blog by Pediatric Experts

Beyond Video Games and Social Media: 3 Tips to Limit Screen Time and Add Exercise

Oct 29, 2019
Kids jumping rope of the playground

Let’s start by saying that screen time is not bad. It just needs to be in moderation, like chocolate. But, like chocolate, screen time is so enjoyable - and addicting. Trying to take screen time away from kids will cause whining and sometimes anger. If you focus on adding physical activity slowly, screen time will go down as a result.

  1. Play Is Exercise

    Exercise is allowed to be fun and can be disguised as play. A child’s heart rate will go up when they play just like it does when they exercise. 

    • Are they smiling? If physical activity isn’t fun, children won’t do it. There’s no chance that it will turn into a habit.
    • Play is different for different people. Just because you think something is fun, doesn’t mean your child will too. In fact, the harder you try to get them to enjoy it, the more they may resist. Don’t let physical activity be like chores or homework, let kids choose the things they like.
    • Try something new. Chances are there are lots of activities you or your child haven’t tried. Trying different things can be exciting and might help your family find a new favorite activity. Here are some ideas: sports (or just kicking a ball), activities (like karate) or getting outdoors (hiking or running around in the park).
  2. Play Isn’t Punishment

    Have you ever been told you can’t have something and it only makes you want it more? That is what happens when we punish children by taking away screen time. Use play as a reward instead.

    • Play is a reward. What does your child enjoy? Playing with friends, going to the park? Encourage these activities. If your child does something good, reward them with something fun and active!
    • Look for ways to reward good behaviors with play. Putting shoes away, finishing dinner, being nice to a sibling are all ways to reward your child with 10 minutes of outdoor play. These are all things you want to happen anyhow, so reward them for it.
  3. Be Active as a Family

    Being active together as a family is important. Children want to play with their parents. It is an easy way to get them active.

    • Choose an activity that the whole family enjoys. Activities that everyone likes are “evergreen” activities, meaning they always have a green light for family fun.
    • Taking turns is sometimes necessary. Sometimes you will have to pick an activity that only one or a few family members enjoy. Taking turns doing what we each like can be fun and help us try new things.
    • Make it important: Schedule family activity time on your calendar. Treat it like a doctor’s appointment or important meeting.

These tips are a part of the Play Strong program at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Play Strong is a physical activity and rehabilitation program used to treat obesity, arthritis, diabetes, hypertension and more. For more information visit www.NationwideChildrens.org/Play-Strong.

Featured Expert

NCH Medical Professional
Travis Gallagher, AT
Sports Medicine

Travis Gallagher is a Coordinator in Nationwide Children’s Sports Medicine. He helped to create the Play Strong program, and it has been his passion ever since. The program has helped Cancer survivors return to play, obesity patients lose weight and patients with other diagnoses improve their quality of life.

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700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.