Balance Technology With Outdoor Play Time for Healthier Kids

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – Many children are too busy tweeting to go outside and hear a real tweet. Kids today spend an average of seven hours per day using electronic media but only four to seven minutes outside in unstructured outdoor play time.
“The importance of media in today’s world is indisputable, but a sky’s-the-limit approach to technology can have a powerful downside for kids if it’s not tempered with something more down to earth,” said Lindsay Legendre, manager of the National Wildlife Federation’s Be Out There movement — an effort to get more children outdoors more often.
Research shows that spending time outdoors makes kids grow lean and strong, enhances their imaginations and gives them time to let off steam and just be kids. The Kaiser Family Foundation says children who spend too much time with technology are more likely to get fair or poor grades. As a result of research like this. NWF’s Be Out There movement created the “Outdoor Play for Every Day: A Parent’s Guide for Overcoming Common Obstacles to Kids and Outdoor Play,” which is loaded with tips and activities to help parents overcome the lure of technology and other common obstacles to getting kids outdoors.
Consider the following suggestions to maximize outdoor time while making peace with media and technology:
* Monkey See/Monkey Do. Set a good example about limiting tech time, and your kids will be more likely to follow suit. Talk to your kids, and let everyone have a say on the amount of time that screens will be used each week so ground rules are clear up front.
* Pay to Play. Encourage kids to earn screen time by balancing it with equal amounts of reading, chores or playing outside. Len Saunders, author of “Keeping Kids Fit” and father of two, suggests that for every hour of physical activity, kids earn 30 minutes of tech time.
* Let ‘Em Pick. Offer kids a set amount of screen time each day and let them decide how to use it (watch TV, play video games or surf the web). If the weather is nice, and they want to trade their screen time for playing outdoors, they can bank their screen time for use on a rainy day.
* Go Geocaching. Take your kids on an outdoor adventure that combines popular GPS technology and a treasure hunt. Don’t have a GPS? There are several smart phone apps that can do the trick. Learn more at
For parents who want their kids to enhance their physical and mental health by playing outside more often, the Be Out There Parent Guide is a valuable resource. Find the Guide and more ideas for enjoying outdoor time at

Replace Computer Games With Real-Life Competition

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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, kids and teens are spending 46 hours per week using electronic media. Now, parents are becoming increasingly concerned that time on the computer is robbing their children of real-life experiences.

The 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing provide an opportunity for parents to interest kids in real-world activities that will help them balance their real life with screen time.

A study by Harris Interactive indicates that nearly 23 percent of youth report that they feel “addicted to computer games.” A new children’s book and animated film, produced by the non-profit Internet Keep Safe Coalition, uses the Games to teach kids what can happen when online gaming takes over real life.

In “Faux Paw Goes to the Games,” the Web-surfing, six-toed cat and Tai Shan, the youngest panda at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, travel to Beijing to light the Olympic flame at the Great Animal Olympics, “Where we set aside our animal differences and play games in peace.”

When Faux Paw becomes distracted by an online game (Worlds of CatWars), Tai Shan helps her realize that real life can’t wait for the game to end. The book and companion DVD (available at and give parents an opportunity to start a conversation with their children about maintaining a healthy balance. They also contain strategies for parents trying to help children set limits on their computer time.

Dr. Kimberly Young, clinical director of the Center for Internet Addiction Recovery, suggests:

– Address the problem.

– Show you care.

– Become more computer-savvy.

– Set reasonable rules.

– Make the computer visible.

– Encourage other activities.

– Support, don’t enable.

– Use outside resources when needed.

Concerned parents can assess their child’s level of dependence on the computer with Young’s online Parent-Child Internet Addiction test, available at Parents will also find tutorials and information that will help them prepare their children to use the Internet safely.

For teachers, a complete integrated curriculum, including lesson plans, worksheets, and activities, is also available at no cost at