Put down the screen and pick up the happiness

The sunny summer days are making their way to Sheboygan.

Trees are starting to bloom, birds are chirping and most afternoons are filled with the smell of brats sizzling on your neighbors grill. With all of the wonders the summer brings, it is the perfect time to get your cell phone out and sit inside, right?

Wrong. Too much screen time can be harmful to both families and children. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, today’s children are spending an average of seven hours a day on entertainment media, including televisions, computers, phones and other electronic devices. Studies that have shown that excessive media use can lead to attention problems, school difficulties, sleep and eating disorders, and obesity.

With a world where media and devices are everywhere, it can be difficult to limit screen time. Below are some small things you can do within your own family:

Create “screen-free” zones. This means no televisions, computers or video games in children’s bedrooms and turning off the TV during dinner.

Turn the TV off. When the show you wanted to watch is over, turn off the set. Also, don’t keep the TV on as background noise. Instead, have family conversation.

Set two hour daily maximums. Establish a two-hour screen time maximum for the members of your family. This includes video games, tablets, TV and cellphones.

What do we do without our screens? Especially in the summer months, there is an endless list of things to do with your family, both alone and together, that don’t involve any screens.

Here are just a few things to think about adding your family routine:

Go on an after-dinner family walk. Find a walking route in your neighborhood and after dinner, go on a stroll as a family.

Game night. Find a board game, card game or lawn game that you can make a friendly contest between one another. With games comes laughter.

Find small activities to do alone or together. Spend time reading, coloring, making crafts, gardening, doing lawn work, playing instruments — the list is endless.

Just take a look around you. We live in such a beautiful area. Locally, there are a number of great things for families to stay active. Within Sheboygan County, we have access to the beaches on the lakefront, community parks and playgrounds, as well as nearby state parks.

For children, consider looking at the events that local schools, churches, YMCA’s and Community Recreation Department’s offer for summer activities.

Aside from decreasing physical activity, screen time has also shown to increase odds of mental issues, including emotional disorders, conduct problems and issues building relationships.

Putting down the screen and picking up alternative activities will not only lead to a healthier life — but a happier family.

So, go out and get your move on.

Libby Holte is a public health educator for the Division of Public Health and a member of the Healthy Sheboygan County 2020 SCAN Committee.