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Teens and Screen Time

Help teens unplug from computers, TVs, and phones and get active instead.
By Winnie Yu
WebMD Feature

child with headphones on laptop computer

Reducing Kids' TV, Computer, and Cell Phone Time -- Without a Fight

Try these stress-free strategies with your teen:

Watch your own screen habits. Although your teen may not seem to pay attention to anything you do or say, you are still her most important role model. So you can't tell her to cut back on TV time if you're watching endless hours of TV, texting while you're driving, or eating dinner with your Blackberry on the table.

"You have to watch what you do," says Paul Ballas, DO, a child psychiatrist and medical director of the Green Tree School Clinic in Philadelphia. "Parents who have limited TV habits tend to raise kids who will have limited TV habits." In short, if you set household screen-time rules, you also need to follow them.

Remind teens to limit screen usage. Banning electronics completely isn't realistic these days, but it's important to let your teen know you're paying attention to how much time she's on a screen. "Sometimes, you need to give them a gentle reminder like, ‘Hey, I think you've used enough technology for now -- it's time to get off and do something else,'" O'Keeffe says. "These kids were born digital, so it's up to us to remind them that there's an unplugged world."

Motivate your teen to exercise. Many kids drop out of sports programs during the teen years. Your teen will be more motivated to move if you let him choose the type of activities he wants to participate in. For example, you may want him to play baseball, but he may prefer swimming at the gym. Show your support for his choice by providing transportation. You can even coordinate schedules so you can work out together.

Another way to help your teen be more active is to use his screen time as a motivation to move more. There are plenty of exercise videos and active video games available that are fun to do and can get his heart rate pumping. Encourage him to play with friends, or get the whole family involved in a little healthy active on-screen competition.

Encourage activities that involve socializing. Look for activities and clubs that engage your teen socially, so he will get out and be with other people, O'Keeffe says. If you can't convince him to join you at social events, suggest activities related to his interests that involve other kids, such as school or church groups, or volunteer work.

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