1. Watch Your Own Screen Habits
Although your kids may not seem to pay attention to anything you do or say, you are still their most important role model. So you can't tell them to cut back on TV time if you're watching endless hours of TV, texting while you're driving, or eating dinner with your cell phone on the table.
"You have to watch what you do," says Paul Ballas, DO, a child psychiatrist and medical director of the Green Tree School Clinic in Philadelphia. "Parents who have limited TV habits tend to raise kids who will have limited TV habits." In short, if you set household screen-time rules, you also need to follow them.
2. Remind teens to limit screen usage.
Banning electronics completely isn't realistic these days, but it's important to let your kids know you're paying attention to how much time they are on a screen. "Sometimes, you need to give them a gentle reminder like, ‘Hey, I think you've used enough technology for now -- it's time to get off and do something else,'" O'Keeffe says. "These kids were born digital, so it's up to us to remind them that there's an unplugged world."
3. Encourage activities that involve socializing.
Look for activities and clubs that engage your teen socially, so he will get out and be with other people, O'Keeffe says. If you can't convince him to join you at social events, suggest activities related to his interests that involve other kids, such as school or church groups, or volunteer work.
4. Create screen rules together.
You'll be more likely to get your kid's buy-in if you come up with screen-time rules as a family. Together you can write up a contract that outlines clear house rules with rewards and agreed upon punishments. Here are some suggestions for rules to implement together:
No texting during meals, either at home or a restaurant
No TV during meals
No TV until after homework and chores are done
The TV gets turned off at a set time at night
The computer stays in a public room in the home
No TVs in bedrooms
Establishing rules about screen usage limits kids' exposure to TV and other electronic devices, says Donald Shifrin, MD, clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle and a member of the committee on communications for the American Academy of Pediatrics.
5. Motivate your kids to exercise.
Help your kids to choose an activity that is easy to do and fits within your family schedule. Help them to understand the benefits of exercise by not only telling but also doing yourself. Discuss with them the basic benefits of exercise. The obvious benefits are weight control and a better physical appearance but also inform them that it can lead to increased energy, which can lead to better athletic abilities and improved concentration that can make school easier.
Try to designate a set time for exercise. We all work better when a schedule is in place because we adjust all we do in a day to fit into that schedule. By anticipating that moment in time, we mentally prepare ourselves for when it arrives. This can work in your favor when it comes to getting your child is motivated for the activity. It may be met with resistance at first, but over time it simply becomes the standard routine.
Turn exercise into a challenge for your children. Kids naturally like to prove to others their competency. By betting them that they can’t do something, they will be more motivated to try to prove to you that they can. Be sure to approach this in a fun, joking manner so as not to discourage them from exercise.
Getting outside and active is the best gift you can give your child!
For more information about how you can get out and about, please contact the expert contributor.