Chances are that your children, like most, spend too much time glued to the screen watching television, surfing the Internet and playing video games. So, how can you break this habit without wrecking havoc in the home?

The answer, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, is to find fun, positive activities that children enjoy and to replace some of their screen time. It is increasingly important to teach kids to maintain and increase their activity levels to counter the rising numbers of overweight children and teens, warns the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

The percentage of children and teens that are overweight has more than doubled in the past 20 years leading to serious related complications. This rise in childhood obesity coincides with Type 2 diabetes growing increasingly prevalent among American youth. Obesity during childhood can also lead to premature heart disease.

“Increased positive activity not only results in controlling excessive weight gain, but also results in healthier bones and joints and prevents or delays the development of high blood pressure,” said Dr. Stuart Landry, pediatrician at the Children’s Clinic of SWLA. “From a psychological standpoint, increased physical activity among children and teens reduces feelings of depression and anxiety, heightens levels of self-esteem.”

According to Landry, one of the behaviors leading to overweight children and teens is the amount of time spent in a sedentary position, watching TV, playing video games, or using a computer.

“Parents should limit children’s total screen time to one to two hours of quality programming per day,” Landry said. “According to the CDC, children should spend a minimum of 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity each day, such as walking or playing basketball.”

Landry suggests the following tips from the CDC for parents to help their children make a positive transition from couch potato to a physically active child:

  • Remove television sets from children’s bedrooms.
  • Plan family adventures in the community such as fishing, canoeing, or berry picking. Explore the Creole Nature Trail, bike trails at Sam Houston Jones Park, or take regular walks down the Civic Center boardwalk.
  • Take advantage of organized physical activities that are available through local parks, schools, and community programs, such as fund raising walks or clean-up days.
  • Recommend pro-social activities, such as volunteering at local organizations, such as the animal shelter, food pantry and churches.
  • Encourage activities for children such as hobbies, athletics, and creative play.
  • Encourage participation in clubs through school, Boy Scouts, Campfire, church youth groups, community service projects, such as helping neighbors cleaning, yard work, or walking the dog.
  • Challenge your child to create new activities by combining elements of two games or sports.
  • Turn on music to get bodies moving and enliven household chores. Encourage responsibility by having children vacuum, mow the lawn, walk the dog, wash the car.
  • Take a walk with your child while practicing spelling words, multiplication tables, or just to talk.
  • Choose activity-oriented gifts at Christmas and birthdays, such as a jump rope, basketball, bicycle, fitness club membership.
  • Serve as a good role model, be active yourself.