Children spend an extraordinary amount of time on digital devices and the COVID-19 pandemic increased their reliance on digital tools. With the closure of many schools, sports and extracurricular activities, children began spending even more time on devices.

How much? According to a recent report from the American Academy of Pediatrics, children aged 8-12 spent an average of 4.5 hours a day on screens, while teens aged 13-18 spent 6.5 hours a day.

On top of increasing screen time, statistics also show kids are becoming more and more sedentary. In fact, the CDC recently reported only 50% of boys and less than 34% of girls ages 12 to 15 are adequately fit. Unfit kids – like their parents – are at risk for cardiovascular and chronic diseases, as well as psychological disorders.

How can you beat this trend?

Lure your children away from the screen and become more active with these seven tips:

  1. Do it together. Find an activity everyone likes to do – instead of heading to the TV room, go for a walk or a bike ride. Play basketball, hopscotch, or catch; even dance outside. 
  2. Use a step counter.  Kids love devices and trackers can motivate kids to move more. Set a family goal for everyone to get a certain number of steps per day.  Or play a game with the counter – how many steps does it take to get to the telephone pole and back?  How quickly can you take 80 steps? 
  3. Explore new locations. Make exercise adventurous – find new places to play. Take the kids to a different playground or a baseball field. Go to the park or have a picnic by the lake.
  4. Try different activities.  Signing your child up for new activities or classes is a great way to get them to love physical activity.  Not everyone is drawn to organized sports such as soccer or baseball. Look for other activities your child might like – dancing, rock climbing, swimming, or martial arts.
  5. Lead by example. Check your own viewing behavior and serve as a role model by incorporating physical activity into your everyday life. When you can, walk instead of drive. Climb the stairs rather than wait for the elevator. Regularly participate in active pursuits and let your kids see – and hear – how much you enjoy them.
  6. Bring a friend along. Kids love to hang out with their peers, so invite a buddy along for a bike ride, offer to bring a friend to the pool.
  7. Be firm. Is going to school, brushing teeth, or wearing a seat belt a subject of debate in your home? No, because these are all activities that promote the health and safety. The same approach should apply to children’s fitness.