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Decreasing Screen Time

Young people will be able to describe at least two activities they could participate in rather than using devices with electronic screens.

Ages

3-8 Years Old

Duration

30 Minutes

What You Need

Resources

Healthy Families Newsletter

English (pdf)

Spanish (pdf)

To find out how this lesson fits Physical Education and Health Education standards click here.

Lesson Overview

This lesson helps young people define “screen time” and potential problems with spending too much time looking at electronic screens. They will analyze how much of their day they spend in front of electronic screens and think of healthy ways to limit their screen time.

Instructor Notes

Before facilitating this lesson, you may want to review the following information about screen time for children. These facts can be shared with young people during your discussions.

We live in a world full of electronics and screens. We can find screens everywhere, from the face of a cell phone to the big movie screen. There are television, computer, tablet screens and more. People spend time in front of screens for work as well as play. They are necessary, however many people spend far too much time in front of a screen.

Screen time includes time spent:

  • watching television
  • using the computer or internet
  • texting using a cell phone
  • playing handheld games
  • other electronic devices.

Too much time in front of a screen can be harmful to our eyes. Individuals are encouraged to look away from screens every 20 minutes so our eyes have a chance to focus on other objects before returning to the screen. Increased screen time is often associated with decreased activity. A decrease in physical activity can lead to weight gain and other health problems.

How much screen time do you think that kids 2 years old and younger be allowed?
How much screen time for kids older than 2?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following for screen time:

  • Children younger than 18 months: No screen time, except for video-chatting.
  • Children 18 months to 24 months: If you want to introduce screen time to your child, choose high-quality programs and watch them with your child.
  • Children age 2 to 5: Limit your child to 1 hour or less of high-quality programs each day. Watch these programs with your child to help him/her better understand them.
  • Children age 6 and older: Set a screen time limit that is right for your child and the whole family. It’s important that screen time never replaces healthful behaviors such as physical activity, sleep and interaction with others.

Activity

  1. Ask the young people if they know what screen time is. Then explain that screen time includes time spent:
    • watching television
    • using the computer or internet
    • texting using a cell phone
    • playing hand-held games
    • other electronic devices.
  2. Have the youth list the various screens in their current environment or home. You can then point out the growing number of screens each young person is exposed to in a typical day. Here are some to add to the list: cell phones, televisions, movie screens, screens in arcades, handheld games, computers, and screens in cars.
  3. Ask the young people how much time they spend in front of a screen each day. Talk about the importance of limiting total screen time to two hours or less each day.
  4. Emphasize the benefit to their body by having them be physically active over sedentary screen time activity. Our bodies like to move and be physically active. When we sit in front of a television screen for hours we don’t get the amount of physical activity our bodies need every day.
  5. Pass out the “Change the Channel on Screen Time” handout and crayons to each young person. Cross out the pictures of screens. Color the pictures that show good things to do when you turn away from the screens.
  6. Allow the youth time to color. If time permits, young people can draw a picture of their own idea on the back of the paper, emphasizing the healthful benefits of physical activity over screen time. Volunteers can share their drawings.

Conclusion

Set screen time goals for the next week. Some examples include:

  • Turn the television off if nobody’s really watching it.
  • Eat our food in the kitchen or dining room. No screen time while eating!
  • Do not text during family meals or other time set aside for family activities.

Keep track of your screen time each day. When you’ve reached two hours, replace your screen time with a healthy activity. If you’ve had plenty of exercise already, read a book, make artwork or crafts, or even just have a conversation with other family members.

Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, which also includes these tips, so that families can continue discussing ways to limit screen time at home.

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