Cut the Screen Time
One of the top recommendations from the study is to cut your children’s screentime down to no more than 1 to 2 hours per day. This can be really hard, at first. Later, it becomes a lifestyle choice.
One of the easiest ways to do it is by having screen-free zone times. These are designated times during the day, like after school until 7 p.m. Gradually increase the time until you only have 1-2 hours of screen time left to offer the child.
The other challenge in cutting screen time is that parents are often glued to screens as well, and so there is often a poor parental example when cutting screen time. A child will find it difficult to understand how come he doesn’t get screen time but mom and dad do. It’s been to find ways to reduce your screen time as well, if at all possible.
You can also talk as a family about activities that should be cell-phone free: like anytime the family eats together, anytime you’re in a restaurant or car, when you’re visiting friends and family, and anytime you’re at entertainment together. The logic would be that you want to increase human interaction as a benefit to yourselves and others.
Additional ideas on how parents can set the example for less screen time are found in this New York Times’ blog post.
More Physical Activity
The study said that children should be getting at least one hour of physical activity a day. The summertime is one of the most perfect times for this because usually there are far more reasons to go outdoors. And there are so many physical activity things you can do with children outdoors!
Biking, hiking, playing on playground equipment, sports, walks, horseback riding, swimming, and much more! Take advantage of the summer to make the switch to more daily physical activity.
Cut the Sugar
Specifically, the study talked about reducing the consumption of sugary beverages. But, of course, the overall reduction in sugar would be wise.
At SMG, we advocate just not buying junk food. Make it stop with your wallet. Have a shopping list and stick to it. Look for substitutes as you make a transition to healthier food choices.
There is a chemical reaction in the brain to whatever diet you’re used to. It can be very difficult to change from a sugary diet to one with far less sugar. But the easiest way to do it is bit by bit. For example, have a no-sugar-drink day once a week. Gradually increase it to seven days a week.
Drink More Water
Another recommendation was to drink more water. As you transition out of sugary drinks, make sure that the replacement is water. Or water with a tinge of lemon juice or a mint herb (with no sugar). This will naturally help your child drink more water. The recommendation is 7-to-10 cups of water, depending on age.
Sleep 9-to-11 Hours
The final recommendation is that children get 9-to-11 hours of sleep each night. This is much easier to do in the summer when there isn’t a school and homework schedule. Time has to be managed more carefully once school gets back into motion. But just think, all those hours gained by not watching a screen should help to get homework done faster. After that, it’s just about accustoming the body to a better sleep schedule.
Parents can help with this by powering off devices, dimming the lights, and calming the household down before bedtime. It helps everyone to get sleepy and sets the internal clock for sleep time.