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Plug in to the outdoors

Plan outdoor activities, such as camping trips, to encourage kids to spend more time in nature and less time on screens this summer.
Plan outdoor activities, such as camping trips, to encourage kids to spend more time in nature and less time on screens this summer.

When summer break rolls around, the sunshine and outdoors beckons. But some kids would rather remain plugged in indoors. However, too much screentime is truly hazardous for their health.

Dr. Douglas Gentile, an award-winning research scientist, educator, author and associate professor of developmental psychology at Iowa State Uni­versity, has extensively studied the subject of kids and screentime.  

He said parents tend to be more concerned about the amount of screentime kids are exposed to versus the content, but both actually matter.

“The amount of screentime is related to things like poorer school performance and physical health problems like repetitive stress disorder, seizure disorders and the risk of obesity goes up 6 percent for every hour you’re in front of a screen. Put a TV in the bedroom, and that goes up another 31 percent,” he said. “The risk of addiction seems to be related to the amount of time too.”

Content, however, is related to behavior. Gentile said that “violent content predicts increased aggressive thoughts, feelings and behavior.”

“Pro-social content promotes help­­ful, cooperative behaviors and empathy, but not school ...




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