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Summer Screen Time: How Much Is Too Much?

Summertime means more free time for youth. Without the school day to occupy them, many children and teens find themselves entertained by TV, websites and digital devices.  While these devices can be comforting on a rainy day or a necessary means of decompressing, many parents and caregivers may wonder: How is screen time affecting the health and development of the youth in our lives?

The answer is in the research:

  • By the time children turn 10 years old, every additional hour of television they watched as toddlers is associated with lower math and school achievement, reduced physical activity and victimization by classmates in middle childhood (JAMA Pediatrics).
  • For every hour of television children watch, they are 8 percent less likely to eat fruit every day, 18 percent more likely to eat candy and 16 percent more likely to eat fast food (Time).

Meeting the needs of human connection and holistic support are key to the healthy development of all youth—and there’s a real concern by many youth development specialists that screen time may be replacing those critical moments in a child’s life.

So, how much summer screen time is too much?

According to the Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) Standards, caregivers should eliminate screen time for children under two years of age. For children over two, screen time should be limited to less than 30 minutes per day for children in half-day programs and less than one hour per day for children in full-day programs.

Here are some helpful strategies to help families limit screen time with youth:

  • Connect interactive lessons to popular media to engage youth without the screen. Make apps, games and shows come alive through building, sculpting and acting. For example, learn about the culture, community and population depicted in a popular show. Explore commonly eaten foods, popular physical activities, climate and so on.
  • Start screen-free weeks and use the time to help kids explore new interests outside of media consumption.
  • Introduce new clubs or activities that children help plan, lead and organize. Involvement increases personal investment, peer engagement and leadership opportunities.

4 Healthy Habits to Start Right Now

Learning how to eat right, manage a social life, get workouts done and work a full day seems impossible sometimes. It can be so tempting to attend every fancy event and happy hour, but it’s also important to take care of yourself. Let’s discuss some habits to set you up for success.

1: Get Good at Eating Vegetables

If there’s one habit you should start young and never stop, it’s eating vegetables. So basic, so simple, but it’s the truth. Vegetables are full of nutrients, high in fiber and low in calories. To eat a healthy diet, vegetables must be part of your daily routine.

First, take notice of how many vegetables you’re eating. Look at your fist and figure out how many fists of vegetables you eat a day. Slowly start adding more, reaching a goal of 6-10 per day.

Consider the following strategies:

  • Bring veggies with you everywhere you go. Chopped carrots, peppers, celery, broccoli, cauliflower and radishes are great on the go.
  • Always order vegetables when you’re out. It doesn’t have to be a salad, but it could be a side of veggies, or swapping some of your starch for a veggie.
  • Keep a bag of greens in your fridge at all times. Throw them in soups or over eggs, or use them as a side for dinner, or a base of a meal. Eat raw, sautéed, steamed or microwaved. Greens go with everything and are so easy to incorporate into your routine. Frozen greens work, too.
  • Use fat, spice and acid to make it taste better. Add oils, butter, cheese, any spice you like, vinegars, lemon or lime to get more vegetables into your routine. Over time, you may notice you don’t need as much added flavor, but do what you’ve got to do.

2: Splurge — in Moderation

Sugar, fried food and alcohol aren’t going away. Quite frankly, they shouldn’t, as splurges are a wonderful and tasty part of life. When you jump into the working world, you may notice how many treats and cocktails effortlessly enter your daily routine. Work meetings, networking opportunities and social events add up. You might go “all or nothing” with this and have weeks or months where you’re drinking and eating an excessive amount, and then challenge yourself to weeks or months of no sugar or alcohol. Although this can sometimes be successful in the short term, it’s exhausting and likely not going to set you up for long-term success. A smarter move is to accept that these foods are in your world, and be strategic about it.

  • If you’re going to a party, eat a balanced meal before you go, so you don’t walk into a splurge-filled situation with a ravenous stomach.
  • Set a rule before you go. Give yourself a number of  treats you’re going to allow yourself before the event starts. Walk in with a plan to keep you focused.
  • Brush your teeth. If you brush your teeth midday at work, it may be easier to say no to the treats at the office.
  • There are scenarios that insist you take the birthday cake, the glass of punch or other splurge. You don’t have to eat it all. You can have a bite or a sip, or even two, and then set the plate or glass down with no one noticing.

3: Put Yourself First

This seems strange, but putting yourself first is a skill, a worthy one that takes practice and time to make it a habit. There are countless moments throughout the day when you can decide to put your goals of a healthy lifestyle over following the pack. For example, take the stairs, even if your friends take the elevator. Be the one at work who goes to the gym at lunch hour, even if it’s for a quick 20- to 30-minute workout. Be the one at the office who has vegetables for an afternoon snack, rather than a cookie. Your health has to be the priority. Unfortunately, if you just go with the flow, you’ll likely eat too much and not move enough. It requires effort to put a healthy lifestyle before anything else. It doesn’t have to be dramatic, but little changes make all the difference.

  • Have a water bottle with you at all times to stay hydrated.
  • Do 10 to 20 push-ups and squats in the morning and/or evening if you can’t get longer workouts in your schedule.
  • Pack the week’s veggie snacks on Sunday nights.
  • When everyone is ordering a heavier meal, instead find a vegetable-rich salad, a veggie side or consider ordering a meal with the dressing, sauce, cheese or fried stuff on the side. That way you can manage your decisions and create a plate that works for you.
  • Find a workout that’s convenient to you so it fits with your lifestyle.
  • Turn off the TV/computer/screens at a certain time so you go to bed at a reasonable hour.

4: Say No

If you say yes to every social offer that comes your way, and every splurge food that’s put in front of you, you won’t feel so well after a year in the “real world.” Realize the power of saying no. You can do it with a smile on your face and still be a team player. If it’s someone’s birthday party, you can sing and celebrate without eating a gigantic piece of cake. You could take a small piece, or have a bite, or simply smile and say “no thank you.”

  • When your co-worker wants to take an afternoon walk for a mocha and a cookie, you can join and simply have coffee or tea. If you want something sweet, consider sharing the cookie rather than each buying your own. Ask your co-worker how he’s doing and enjoy the conversation. There’s no need to have a calorie-filled afternoon snack just because your co-worker wants to.
  • Smile as you say no. Practice right now: Smile and say no aloud. Avoid judging, saying “ew” or making someone else feel bad for ordering something not in line with your values. Smile first, say “no thank you,” and move on.

Pay attention during this exciting time in your life. Have fun! But take time daily, or hourly, to be sure you’re also prioritizing your health. You can thank yourself later.

Source: Jae Berman, The Washington Post. 6/14/17.

Helping Men Make Health a Priority

Web-Men-Working-OutFather’s Day provide an opportunity to honor the important men in our lives. One way we can do this is by supporting their efforts to make their health a priority.

Celebrate National Men’s Health Week, June 13-19, by encouraging father, grandfathers, or other male role models to take a step each day to improve their health. Share these seven suggestions from the Centers for Disease Control and PRvention:

  1. Sleep – Getting less than seven to nine hours of sleep a night can contribute to a number of chronic diseases.
  2. Quit Smoking – Doing so improves your health immediately and lowers your risk for cancer, heart disease, and lung disease.
  3. Move – Adults need 2-1/2 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week in addition to muscle-strengthening exercises twice a week that target all major muscle groups.
  4. Healthy Eating – For nutritious meals that stay within calorie limits, choose a variety of nutrient-dense foods – including fruits, vegetables, and fish – in recommended serving sizes.
  5. Limit Stress – Avoid using drugs and alcohol to combat stress. instead, stay active and socially connected.
  6. Get Checkups – Doctor visits help identify diseases that may not show clear symptoms. Chest pain, shortness of breath or excessive thirst should be checked out right away.
  7. Track Numbers – Keep track of results for blood pressure, blood glucose, cholesterol, body mass index and other tests. If your numbers are out of the acceptable range, your health care provider can suggest ways to get them back to normal.

As a member of the Y, you are part of a diverse organization of men, women, and children joined together by a shared commitment to strengthening our community through youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility.

Three Ways Dad Influence a Child’s Development

Web-Dad-and-DaughtersThere are an estimated 70.1 million fathers across the U.S. As we prepare to celebrate dads, it is also a key moment for understanding the lasting and powerful influence a father has in the life of his child. Here are three critical ways dads impact youth development:

  • SOCIAL-EMOTIONALLY: Children with more involved fathers experience fewer behavioral problems and score higher on reading and achievement.*
  • COGNITIVELY: A father’s involvement in his child’s school is associated with higher likelihood of that child getting mostly A’s.*
  • PHYSICALLY: The National Longitudinal Survey of Youth found that obese children are more likely to live in father-absent homes than are non-obese children.

 

Yet, not all children have the loving nurturing support of a father. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24 million children in America — one out of every three — live without their biological fathers at home.

At the YMCA, we recognize that a young person’s development journey is negatively impacted when they do not receive the proper holistic support needed to reach their full potential. Through our youth development programs, we partner with families to ensure all children and teens have an opportunity to develop new skills, build strong friendships, and find their sense of belonging.

By supporting the socio-emotional, cognitive, and physical development of all youth, we support their success in school and life.

*Source: Fatherhood.org

Three Ways Dad Influence a Child's Development

Web-Dad-and-DaughtersThere are an estimated 70.1 million fathers across the U.S. As we prepare to celebrate dads, it is also a key moment for understanding the lasting and powerful influence a father has in the life of his child. Here are three critical ways dads impact youth development:

  • SOCIAL-EMOTIONALLY: Children with more involved fathers experience fewer behavioral problems and score higher on reading and achievement.*
  • COGNITIVELY: A father’s involvement in his child’s school is associated with higher likelihood of that child getting mostly A’s.*
  • PHYSICALLY: The National Longitudinal Survey of Youth found that obese children are more likely to live in father-absent homes than are non-obese children.

 

Yet, not all children have the loving nurturing support of a father. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24 million children in America — one out of every three — live without their biological fathers at home.

At the YMCA, we recognize that a young person’s development journey is negatively impacted when they do not receive the proper holistic support needed to reach their full potential. Through our youth development programs, we partner with families to ensure all children and teens have an opportunity to develop new skills, build strong friendships, and find their sense of belonging.

By supporting the socio-emotional, cognitive, and physical development of all youth, we support their success in school and life.

*Source: Fatherhood.org