Television/Screen Time and Health

three children using electronicsTelevision/Screen Time and Health
What You Need to Know

Watching television, playing video games, surfing the internet or otherwise spending too much time in front of a screen may effect your health. Too often these activities replace going outside, taking walks, playing, and otherwise getting the physical activity we all need to stay healthy. This is true for people of all ages, and it may be of special concern with children.

Use of screen time may also affect what and how much we eat. Snacking while watching television is common, and what we snack on may be affected too. Advertising often encourages eating less-healthy foods, both for snacks and the dinner table.

The solution

It is not enough to simply turn off the television and other media. Instead, we need to think about our food choices, how much we eat and when we eat. We must not only turn off the television, video game or the computer, but get active and move our bodies.


  • Plan how much television you and your family members will watch, either daily or weekly. Pick a limit that is right for your family and stick to it.
  • Practice “appointment TV”—decide ahead of time what you want to watch and watch only that.
  • If you find yourself in front of the television out of habit, it’s time to turn it off.
  • Get the television, computers and video games out of the bedroom, especially for children.
  • Eat meals together, at a table, with the television, cell phones, and other communication devices off, to encourage interaction and conversation.
  • Don't use screen time as a reward.
  • Designate screen-free days or screen-free play dates for your children.
  • When watching television, plan your snacks and decide ahead of time how much you will eat. Instead of eating chips out of a bag, put some in a bowl and put the bag away. And instead if chips, why not find something you like to eat that is healthier, and you enjoy just as much?
  • Model the behaviors you want for your kids. Make a plan for getting outside and getting active doing things you enjoy, such as gardening, taking a walk, playing with the kids. It doesn’t take much to feel and see results right away!


Kaiser Family Foundation Screen-time toolkit (pdf/12pgs 4.42mb) (also available in Spanish (pdf/10pgs 3.35mb))

For more resources, visit the resource page

Visit the Nutrition pages for more information on healthy eating.

Visit the Physical Activity pages for more about ways to make it more a part of your life.

Updated Wednesday, October 08, 2014 at 11:41AM