Time to Unplug!

by Jill Weisenberger, MS RDN CDE FAND

Time to Unplug!

What occupies your kids for more than six hours per day? TV, computer and video screens. Children spend on average almost 45 hours per week with media.That's more time than they spend with their parents! Even kids under age 2 watch one to two hours of television per day.

Too Much TV Linked to Obesity

Ungluing your kids from the TV set and other screens may help prevent and treat weight problems. Though TV and other screen time can be entertaining and even educational, too much is associated with being overweight or obese. One study found that children who spent more than eight hours watching TV each week at age 3 were more likely to be obese at age 7. Having a TV in their bedroom ups their chances of being overweight even more, says Amy Jamieson-Petonic, RD, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and director of coaching at Cleveland Clinic. Fortunately, limiting TV and other screen time helps kids lose body fat and control their weight.

When kids—and adults too—sit in front of the TV, they're not burning up the extra calories they would if they played sports, rode bikes, walked dogs or did chores. Unfortunately, non-nutritious food and screen time seem to go together, boosting calorie intake. Researchers from the University of Liverpool note that food commercials influence kids to eat more unhealthful foods. Children who watch Saturday morning cartoons see 20 food commercials in just one hour, and 19 of them are for foods that aren't nutritious!

Kids Watching More TV

Chances are good that your kids are in front of screens more than you think they are. Do they watch TV while getting dressed? While eating breakfast or waiting for the school bus? Do they play handheld video games before dinner? Ask your kids about this. What you learn might be surprising.

Be sure to keep the TV off during dinner too. The whole family should focus on the food and the conversation. "Families that eat dinner together at least three to four times per week are healthier and maintain a better weight," explains Jamieson-Petonic.

These guidelines will help your family maintain just the right amount of screen time.

  • Limit TV and other media to less than two hours per day for kids age 2 and older. Do not allow television viewing for children less than 2 years of age, according to recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
  • Keep TV out of the bedrooms.
  • With the exception of an occasional family movie and pizza night, keep television sets off while eating.
  • Sit down with your kids to help them select the specific TV shows they'll watch, giving them some control and helping them make decisions. Watch with them when you can.
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About the author:

Jill S Weisenberger MS RDN CDE FAND

Jill Weisenberger, MS RDN CDE FAND

is a nutrition writer, consultant and spokesperson based in Virginia. She is the author of "Diabetes Weight Loss Week by Week" (American Diabetes Association, 2012). Visit Jill's website at




  • Cook healthy

    Involve your child in the cutting, mixing and preparation of all meals. Even a snack can be healthy.

  • Eat right

    Sit down together as a family to enjoy a wonderful meal and the opportunity to share the day's experiences with one another.

  • Shop smart

    To encourage a healthy lifestyle, get your children involved in selecting the food that will appear at the breakfast, lunch or dinner table.

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