Screen time and digital technology: how it affects physical activity
Getting up and moving around is important for your child’s energy levels, development, learning, sleep, and overall health and wellbeing.
Sometimes screen time and digital technology use can mean children sit still for too long without a break. But it doesn’t have to be this way – you can use screen time to get your child moving.
Using screen time and digital technology to encourage physical activity: ideas
Here are ways for children to combine screen time with physical activity. You and your child can try many of these ideas together:
- Plan a walk to the shops or local playground using a digital map. You and your child could also use a smart watch or wearable fitness tracker to count your steps, measure your speed, challenge each other and so on.
- Take photos of interesting things you and your child see on a walk. You can look at them later and talk about what your child saw. Or your child could draw a map and add the photos to it.
- Video your child learning a new skill like hopping, riding a bike or doing a new skateboard trick. You can replay the footage so your child can see how they’re learning.
- Watch videos together set in places you’d like to visit together. For example, you could watch a video set at a beach, then go to the local beach.
- Choose active video games and apps that get your child to move around inside and outside. These could be dancing or singing games, virtual sports simulators or Pokemon Go.
- Encourage your child to bring their digital interests into off-screen play. For example, your child could dress up as a favourite TV character or use dolls and figurines to act out scenes.
- Make use of natural breaks like advertisements or the end of game levels to encourage movement. For example, you could see how many star jumps you and your child can fit in before the ads finish.
Modelling screen time and digital technology use to get active
What you do and say guides your child’s behaviour and attitudes in most things, including screen time.
Your child is strongly influenced by the way you use screens and will want to do what you do. So if your child sees you using screens to get moving, they’re more likely to use screens for physical activity too.
Here are ways you can be a role model for combining screen time with physical activity:
- Show your child how you track your physical activity. You can talk about how good it feels to see how far or fast you walked, cycled, swam or ran last week.
- Show your child how you look up instructional videos before you do things that are physically active. For example, watch a video on how to pot a plant and then go outside and plant one.
- Share your favourite physical activity apps with your child – for example, apps that guide you through dance or yoga. You could also try different yoga poses or dance routines together.
Australia’s physical activity guidelines for children
Being active every day is important for your child’s health, development and wellbeing:
- Children aged 1-5 years should be physically active for 3 hours a day.
- Children aged 5-18 years should have at least one hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day.