Saturday, February 22, 2020

Managing Screen Time; Encouraging Active Play

Kids playing 4-Square indoorsDuring winter break managing screen time can be difficult for many families, especially those with younger children.

One way to reduce screen time is to create a “tech free” zone in your home. Load this area with books, interactive games, musical instruments, and puzzles.

Modeling is an positive way to encourage behavior change. You can set timers on devices (that everyone sticks to). TVs and computers can be set to automatically shut off at certain times of the day or after an elapsed time.

Plan ahead. When devices are set to turn off have activities or tasks already organized. Established family “share” times have been shown to reduce screen time.

An often forgotten about idea to help reduce screen time among youth is to simply educate. Have discussions on the dangers of too much screen time, how it can affect personal growth and development, sleep, school work and even behavior.

If cutting screen time drastically is something that is too difficult, there are options to utilize screens for more educational or physical activities. The National Institutes of Health is a reliable source for understanding the dangers of too much screen time and the lack of physical activity  and their website provides ideas and activities.

Local winter activities are available, accessible, and affordable (or even free!).  Near where I live in Northern Franklin County, local organizations like the Malone Fish and Game Club have a variety of winter ready trails to hike and snowshoe for members. Nicandri Nature Center in Massena and the VIC in Paul Smiths have daily groomed cross-country skiing. And both have snowshoeing trails and free rentals.

In Malone, the recreation park has winter accessible trails on the back side of the soccer fields near Civic Center on State Street. The Malone YMCA offers classes and specialized days for youth activities at affordable costs.

Leaving home to fight winter boredom isn’t the only way. Here is a home activity you can do, that is easy to set up. Foursquare requires some masking tape, a hard floor, and a medium sized bouncing ball. Make a set of quadrants labeled 1 through 4, start in #1 and proceed to #4 as players are eliminated. The object of the game is to bounce it in an opponent’s square, but rules can be added to make the game more difficult.

Potato hockey is another fun game for young people that is simple to set up. You will need pool noodles (or other soft, stick like props); slippery socks; a shower curtain; a plastic table cloth or tarp; 2-4 laundry baskets; and a potato (or small ball). Each player gets a “stick” to guard their goal (the laundry basket), and try to score goals on their opponents.

For more information or questions and more ideas on positive youth development ideas visit the CCE website.

Abby Langdon-Bigness is a nutrition educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension. She graduated from SUNY Potsdam with Bachelor’s of Science in Community Health & Human Performance and is the Director of After School Programming in Brushton, Chateaugay and Northern Adirondack Central Schools and Program Director at Camp Akalaka in Northern Franklin County.

Photo: Playing 4-Square indoors.

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The Adirondack Almanack publishes occasional guest essays from Adirondack residents, visitors, and those with an interest in the Adirondack Park. Submissions should be directed to Almanack editor Melissa Hart at

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