LiveWell Northwest Colorado: Take control of TV and other screen time

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LiveWell Northwest Colorado

This weekly column about health issues publishes on Mondays in the Steamboat Today. Read more columns here.

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Barb Parnell

— LiveWell Northwest Colorado challenged the county to 5-2-1-0 in October. The “2” component reminds us to engage in two hours or less of recreational screen time each day.

A few facts about screen time habits in the U.S.

• Amount of TV that an average American watches per day: 4 hours

• Time per day that TV is on in an average U.S. home: 7 hours, 40 minutes

• Percentage of Americans who always or often watch TV while eating dinner: 40 percent

• Average number of hours per week that American 1-year-olds watch TV: 6

• Number of hours recommended by the American Pediatric Association for children 2 and younger: 0

• Average time per week that the American child ages 2 to 17 spends watching TV: 19 hours, 40 minutes

• Time per week that parents spend in meaningful conversation with their children: 38.5 minutes

• Hours per year the average American youth spends in school: 900

• Hours per year the average American youth watches TV: 1,023

• Percentage of children ages 8 to 16 who have a TV in their bedroom: 56

• Number of ads aired for “junk food” during four hours of Saturday morning cartoons: 202

• Number of hours per day youth spend on average in front of a screen: 7.5

The facts suggest that TV watching not only limits physical activity but also increases snacking and exposure to lots of ads promoting high fat, high sugar foods.

Locally, 85 percent of our Routt County students and 73 percent of our adults reported that they engage in two hours or less of recreational screen time each day. I would have been one of the 73 percent of adults who reported that, yet when I tracked my TV watching during the 5-2-1-0 Routt County October Challenge, I was surprised to see my screen time on the weekends was significantly longer than on the weekdays (and a couple of those days exceeded the two hours).

Try tracking your recreational screen time for two weekdays and two weekend days this month and see for yourself. If you notice that you are over the recommended two hours per day, see what impact a small change can have, such as: shutting off all screens during meal times, removing or not turning on any screens in bedrooms, not eating while watching TV or on a screen or limiting screen time to specific days and times. And for an added benefit, take advantage of the TV commercial time to stretch, do jumping jacks or run in place.

Take control of your screen time before it controls you. Help Routt County become the healthiest county in Colorado.

This article was adapted from "Let’s GO 5-2-1-0." For more information about Let’s GO 5-2-1-0, visit www.letsgo.org or contact Barb Parnell, LiveWell Northwest Colorado Community, at livewellbparnell@gmail.com.

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