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Teen Health 411
Teen Health 411

Are you, or your teen a couch potato?

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I know that life is busy and many of us are tired, stressed out, and struggling, but using "screen time" - including television, computers, video screens, and DVDs - as relaxation is creating a huge obstacle to staying active and keeping fit. Spending our time in front of a TV or computer is also reducing the amount of time we spend with family members, reducing our connectedness and the strength of our families.

Research suggests that more than two hours a day in front of a screen during free time is associated with health risks including obesity and depression. If you or your children spend more than about an hour a day of your spare time watching a screen, changes are in order. You may not even realize how much time your family spend in front of a screen, so keep a log for a week or two and be prepared for a shock!

This log does not have to be fancy, but it must include the name of the person, and how many minutes they spend in front of every screen in the house - for each of 7 days. Total it at the end and talk with your family about the things you could have done together instead of sitting in front of those screens.

Parents have to set an example and "Turn off the TV" encouraging their children to find something to do that moves their body and gets them out into the fresh air. You can do other things, too:
• tell kids they can spend one hour a day in front of a screen of their choice, and enforce it;
• take computers and TVs out of kid's rooms;
• do not watch TV during meal times;
• offer alternatives - board games, art projects, yard activities, bike riding;
• post a list of activities; and most importantly,
• only turn the TV on when there is something specific you want to watch.

Resources:
TV Turnoff Network
We're Talking Teen Health

Photo credit: PhillipC

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About the Author

Dr. Brown is a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescent health.

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