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Outside Play vs Screen Time

Explore how screen time can interfere with your child's active play and learn how you can strike a balance between sedentary and physical activity

Words by
Allyson Thayne

DEC 01, 2021

Outside Play vs Screen Time

Explore how screen time can interfere with your child's active play and learn how you can strike a balance between sedentary and physical activity


  • 20% of juveniles in the U.S. are considered obese
  • Screen media exposure leads to obesity

Children are growing up surrounded by technology and consequently learn to depend on their devices. This puts them at risk of physical health challenges. The CDC reports that in the U.S., nearly 20% of children ages 2-18 are obese (CDC, 2021). Besides hormonal imbalances, excess stress, prescribed medications, and certain medical conditions, screen time has also been suggested as a contributing factor in cases of obesity. “Current evidence suggests that screen media exposure leads to obesity in children and adolescents through increased eating while viewing; exposure to high-calorie, low-nutrient food, and beverage marketing that influences children’s preferences, purchase requests, consumption habits, and reduced sleep duration” (Robinson et al., 2017).

While there is undeniably a link between obesity and technology use, it’s critical to understand that technology does not cause obesity. Instead, it acts more as a barrier to your child’s active play by encouraging sedentary behaviors. Screen time requires limited physical activity and often extends for long periods. Despite the beneficial effects of playing video games or watching TV, excessive screen time can lead to obesity, poor fitness, and reduced social and cognitive skills (Maitland et al., 2013).

Downtime should not be avoided completely but enjoyed in moderation. Finding an appropriate balance between physical and sedentary activities will prevent technology from dominating your child’s time. The good news is that it is never too late for children to develop self-control and moderation, which will prevent obesity as they mature. Developing a healthy relationship with screen time is just as important as finding ways to incorporate physical activity into their daily routine. Consider having a conversation with your child to establish boundaries around recreational screen time. Make sure this plan prioritizes sleep, exercise, and breaks from tech use.

Encouraging Physical Activity in Children

Taking up physical activity may be easy for some children, while giving up some screen time may be hard for others. Remind them that they don’t have to join a sport to be physically active; they just have to move their body. Depending on how they consume media, they may also be interested in hobbies such as archery, dancing, yoga, walking, rock climbing, skating, theater, gardening, horseback riding, or karate. You can help your child live outside of screens by encouraging them to transform barriers into boundaries.

Activities to do with your kids:


  • Pickleball
  • Cornhole
  • Frisbee
  • Scavenger hunts
  • Paper boats
  • Stair races
  • Double-dutch jump rope
  • Yoga for kids
  • Hide and seek
  • Red light! Green light!

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