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Limit screen time: Getting kids back into school mode

Two more weeks and the kids go back to school!
How will you get your children and yourself back on a school schedule?
Hopefully, your children were able to have an active summer playing ball, swimming, hiking or running. Too many kids are stuck behind electronic devices all summer. Even my son who is active through the summer with outdoor track spends too much “screen time” (more than two hours a day). Fortunately, he is an active kid, and I do have limitations in place for gaming and TV. However, the problem of spending too much screen time on the phone crept up on both of us. When we went to see Dr. Lins at Salisbury Pediatrics for Andrew’s annual checkup, we thought we had the gaming and TV time well around two hours. Then, his nurse asked about the phone time, and we realized that was way past two hours.
When school is in session, kids need to put away the phone anyway, so start gradually cutting that screen time now. Research has shown that too much screen time has the following negative affects on children, especially teens:
• Due to lack of inactivity, screen time “packs on pounds” and is a big contributor to the rise in childhood obesity.
• Texting after bedtime (even when lying in bed) makes teens tired by keeping them from getting adequate rest. I remember when my daughters were receiving text messages at 2 and 3 a.m. Needless to say, the phones came out of their rooms.
• Violent video games harden teens. Seeing and playing violent games can desensitize your child toward violence and, in turn, present violence as a normal way to solve problems.
• Texting and gaming can contribute to overuse injury in hands and fingers.
• The more a child watches TV, the more likely he or she will have trouble falling asleep or have an irregular sleep schedule.
• Too much screen time has been linked to behavioral and attention problems.
• And, of course, too much screen time leaves less time for active, creative play.
So here we are, two weeks before school, and your child has too much screen time because of the summer. Start making changes now. If they can’t leave the phone, TV or computer alone when asked, take the devices out of their room. Try to gradually get them back into school mode by going to bed and getting up on time.
The YMCA has been great for many kids throughout the summer. It has allowed them to stay active and in touch with their friends and socialize. When your child is 11, they can be at the YMCA without an adult. However, not all areas are open to them (like the Fitness Center).
They can use the climbing wall and Xrkade, the pool, racquetball and basketball courts. And we continue to run summer camps from kindergarten through 8th grade until Friday, Aug. 22. Your child will need your help to make the change back to school mode. To ensure the physical, mental and emotional health of your child, make sure they get adequate sleep, limited screen time and a healthy diet.
Just one question — how is your screen time?
Ester H Marsh is health and fitness director of the JF Hurley YMCA.

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