family playing outside in cold weatherIt’s not uncommon in today’s typical household to find all family members together in one room absorbed in their individual screen devices. Parents on smartphones, kids on tablets or playing video games – does the scene sound familiar?

Glowing screens are all around us. Technology has made our lives more convenient and entertaining, but it can also adversely affect our health. Studies show that people who spend at least four hours per day in front of a screen (TV, computer, personal device) are twice as likely to experience a cardiovascular problem than those who limit screen time to two hours a day or less. Watching TV or playing games may not be inherently healthy, but sitting for long periods of time can be.

Too much screen time is also linked to vision problems, sleep issues and gaining weight. The effects on children have also been documented to include attention problems, difficulty at school and eating disorders due to excessive media exposure.

Completely removing TVs, computers and personal screen devices isn’t necessary, let alone feasible. But with a few changes, you and your family can make less screen time more of a priority this year.

• Create “screen-free zones” in your home where no TVs, computers or video games are available.

• Fill the “screen-free zone” with other activities the whole family can enjoy such as books and board games.

• Participate as a family in physical activities. Taking a walk or biking in the neighborhood or playing outdoors are examples.

• Limit your children’s screen time. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children ages two to five be limited to one hour of screen time per day. Older children should also be guided in appropriate screen time that allows for other physical and social activities.

• Keep devices out of bedrooms and away from dinner tables.

• Set the example. Parents, make a point to monitor your own screen time. Your kids are watching and following in your footsteps.