Balance technology with outdoor play time for healthier kids

Published On: Apr 09 2012 04:33:16 PM EDT   Updated On: Sep 21 2012 07:17:58 AM EDT
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(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 www.Rangerricktrails.com.

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 www.beoutthere.org.