How to Get Kids to Put Down the Remote

Wrenching that TV remote – a key to good health/ Kill the TV/ Watch your weight, not the TV

The percentage of overweight children and adolescents in the US is growing. An increasing number of teens are leading sedentary lives, sitting for hours in front of their TVs and computer screens, mindlessly grazing on empty-calorie, high-fat foods.

  • 90% of our young people spend three hours a day watching TV and the activity most often paired with television watching is eating: Youth report eating 14% of the time that they spend watching TV.
  • Most teens see up to 20,000 commercials per year and nearly 89% of advertisements viewed were for products that were high in fat, sugar or sodium.
  • Higher exposure to advertising (based on parents’ reports of viewing habits and advertising broadcast data) was related to greater consumption of advertised brands and energy-dense product categories (sugared breakfast cereals, confectionery, savory snacks, soft drinks and products from fast-food restaurants).

It’s no wonder then, that obesity is very strongly linked to TV-watching habits. Experts even believe that television viewing can affect the mental, social and physical health of young people because it sucks them into watching it instead of pursuing more creative activities.

TV is not the only idiot-box. Teens spend at least an hour everyday on a computer for recreation in form of surfing websites, playing games, bonding through social networking websites, checking e-mail and chatting.

Because watching TV is a relaxing activity, requiring low levels of concentration, teens tend to watch TV when they’re alone or bored. TV and internet provide entertainment, recreation, information and opportunities to socialize. The good news is that with careful planning and a strong commitment, you can help teens find all those and more by replacing bad habits with healthier ones.

  • Set a time limit for watching TV
  • Check out the program guide for shows that interest your family and watch only those.
  • Rearrange your living room –don’t make TV the focus of the room. More than two-thirds of school-age (age 8 to 18) children have a TV in their bedroom. It seems radical but it might be wise to unplug TVs from the bedrooms.
  • Make a monthly ‘Family Fun’ schedule. Pick one day during each week to have some family fun, outside. Visit a museum, aquarium or a zoo. If you can’t go outdoors, invite friends over and play board games or jigsaw puzzles. Make room for more physically intense activities like trekking, long cycle rides, skiing once in a fortnight. Plan for your family to volunteer for community work.
  • Involve your family in household chores that require them to move and give them specific responsibilities like mowing the lawn, watering the garden, washing the car or cleaning up after dinner. Have a ‘house-cleaning’ day and have everyone pitch in to do some thorough cleaning.
  • Enroll teens in activities that match their skills and interests like music, dance or painting. Encourage them to socialize with students in these classes.
  • Take teens along for grocery shopping. It’s a good time to not only bond with them but also educate and inform them about health foods. You could also have them shop independently once your confident that they will stick to the list.
  • Encourage your family members to keep a journal.
  • Audio books are a great way to ‘read’ books while multi-tasking.
  • Encourage participation in events and contests. Remember to emphasize the importance of participation over winning. Since most events and contests have a deadline, it would force your teens to work towards a goal. This kind of challenge motivates them to practice and train.
  • Do your research and sign your teen up for teen fitness classes that incorporate a variety of themes, exercise techniques, media and resistance equipment. Take care to see that the instructors know how to deal with teens and make them feel comfortable.
  • Last but not the least, be a better parent – walk the walk while you talk the talk. If you are an obsessive TV watcher then maybe its time to begin with you.

By making small but significant changes in our lifestyles, we can help teens turn off their TVs and tune in to more active and healthy lives. If you need more motivation, check out what these celebrities have to say –

Actor Lisa Kudrow: “For many years I never allowed my son Julian to watch TV. I think it is unhealthy for young children and restricts their development. I have always encouraged him to spend time with friends or enjoy sports. “The problem with TV is that people dump their children in front of it for eight, even 10 hours a day. But it is not healthy to the development of a young mind. He is 10 now and his viewing is still strictly limited.”

Actor Kirstie Alley: “Although my son True is 14 and daughter Lillie is 12, I have always restricted their TV watching time to two hours a night. And they are also allowed zero unmonitored computer time. And the computers are in the kitchen where we all are.

Karen Jashinsky is the founder of O2 MAX-a fitness network for teens that teaches teens how to integrate fitness and nutrition into their day to day lives while preventing injuries and empowering teens to lead healthy and fit lifestyles. The O2 MAX training studio is based in Santa Monica. To receive her newsletter or contact her she can be reached at info (at) o2maxfitnes (dot) com. Or through her website & blog: <>

No Responses to “How to Get Kids to Put Down the Remote”

  1. Mike Wills, Jr.
    November 25, 2008 at 2:45 pm #

    GREAT GREAT POST! Nothing made me more upset this summer than driving around New York and seeing almost NO kids playing outside. Between the thousands of channels at their fingertips and the new video game every month it’s become dangerously scary. Parent’s have to stress the unimportance of television through their words and their actions at an early age.

    Hopefully, things will change soon!


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