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Children today spend an astonishing amount of time in front of screens, and it isn’t just the television anymore. Cell phones, tablets, computers and handheld games have replaced more traditional toys and activities, keeping them indoors and plugged in. Even the very young child is inevitably drawn to play with these devices.

But spending too much time in front of a screen can have very negative implications for their health. The lack of physical activity can lead to weight gain and there can also be effects on their vision, attention span and social skills.

Try these strategies to get them away from their tech gadgets and living more active lives with their family and friends.

Go extracurricular.
Speak with your kids about their interests and pay attention to what activities they’re drawn to. You can use this information to choose a club or team for them to join. You can also sign them up for an art class, dance or music lessons to help them use their creativity.

Get outside.
After sitting in school all day, your kids will want to come home and sit down again in front of the television or computer. Get them outside instead to play a game and burn off some energy. They’ll get some exercise as well as a percentage of their daily vitamin D from a safe amount of sun exposure.

Make meals screen free.
When it’s time for you and your family to sit down to meals, make sure to have them away from the television. While the occasional dinner and a movie can be a fun activity, make it a special event instead of a nightly occurrence. Have everyone ditch their phones, too and just catch up.

Designate a “tech zone.”
Having a television and computer in your child’s bedroom may make them feel cool, but it also encourages them to stay there instead of interacting. Also, there is compelling evidence that having these items in the bedroom inhibits restful sleep. Keep the tech in one or two places in the home — common places where everyone can utilize them and you can control tech time better.

Set a technology bedtime.
Schedule a time each day for everyone to put down their devices and begin to unwind. Ideally, two hours before bedtime. Looking at a lit-up screen, be it a computer, television or cell phone, can impact the body’s production of melatonin, the sleep hormone, and the circadian rhythm, which help the body recognize darkness and that it’s time to sleep.

Create weekly traditions.
To avoid everyone congregating in the same room but on their devices, plan some new weekly activities for the whole family. A game night, play date with another family or a special meal — just something that gets everyone involved and spending time together.

Make it a family effort.
Getting your children to stay away from the screens won’t work if you don’t lead by example. Stick with these strategies to help everyone (including you!) break away from their tech to be healthier and happier together.

Reducing tech time is important for your kids to develop social skills, as well as healthy habits they’ll benefit from for years to come.

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