Screens, Food, and Bread Crumbs on My Sofa

Balancing screen time, even when the kids are sick

My mom always told me never to eat in ­front of the TV. As my mom is a very wise woman, I’m still not sure if she did it because she did not want crumbs all over her sofa or because of another reason. No matter her reason, I was a good girl doing as I was told.

Now that I have children of my own, the only time I let them eat while watching TV, playing on the computer, or engaging in a video game activity is when they are sick and I want something to “get into their system” (most likely liquid or fruits).

I know I am not the only parent that uses technology in a time of crisis. Many parents will use the device as a babysitter. I am not here to judge. I am writing because I was curious to why consuming screen time and eating is not such a good idea.

Here is what I found so far — well…besides the obvious of crumbs all over the place, or in my case spilling coffee all over my keyboard.

First and foremost, a child will consume more food while staring at the screen. Our kids will pay attention to one thing, and one thing only: their screen. I can stand next to them, talk, dance, make faces, you name it, but their eyes will remain glued to the screen. If they have food in their hands, they will just eat it without paying attention, any kind of food and much more than they should.

Second, kids that watch TV are exposed to more advertisements for unhealthy foods, such as fast food or sodas, vs fruits and vegetables. Even for us adults making the healthy choice it is not easy, so I can understand why a child will prefer the colorful exciting junk, seen on a TV ad, over fruit or veggie. I’m sure you will agree that establishing healthy eating habits should start at young age.

Third, kids that are spending their time in-­front of their electronic devices are less likely to be active (With the exception of dancing or “exercising” with the help of xBox, Wii, or another type of game console). The national guidelines recommend at least an hour of physical activity every day for children and teens, but how can they do that if they are on their cellphone or on their computer?

These unhealthy habits lead us to one problem, and it’s a big one - OBESITY.

As a mom reading the CDC Childhood Obesity Facts, I must say I’m concerned. How can we prevent that in our home? Lets start by following my mom’s rule — No eating while on screens!

To add to that, I suggest giving the kids alternatives for their screens. This is the time to pull out the arts and crafts box, cook together, and even pick up a book instead of the phone. Help them discover other activities that are not just technology.

Last but not least - Have clear rules on when they can be on their devices and when it is time to be off. I call it screen free time. Some examples for screen free time is when they are eating, and when they are sleeping.

Kids need simple rules. Share those simple rules with them and stick to them. It’s not going to be easy at first, but it’s worth it. I promise!

Tali Orad, Founder & CEO of Screen / Founder of B.E.CPR, Inc
Entrepreneur and engineer, but most importantly, a mom to a son and two daughters, little angels that were spending way too much time on their electronic devices. That’s what inspired Tali to create Screen and reconnect with her family.