06/17/2013 11:19 am ET Updated Aug 17, 2013

Technology Doesn't Make Kids Fat

Parents have very real concerns about childhood obesity. The research clearly shows that the more kids sit on their butts, the heavier they will be (and this is true for adults as well).

Our kids love technology. Parents are cautioned over and over again to limit the amount of "screen time" our kids have. This puts parents and kids at cross-purposes. They want tech and we should say no, right?


Technology isn't the problem. Being sedentary is.

WQED- TV is tackling this challenge in the third episode of iQ: smartparent "Health, Wellness and Technology."

I was thrilled to interview a pediatric endocrinologist from Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh Weight Management and Wellness Center and representatives of several companies helping families use tech to be active like Venture Outdoors, Body Media and Let's Move Pittsburgh, based on First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move program that gives real solutions for overcoming any family objections to activity that involves more than our thumbs.

So, what can parents do to help their kids balance life and technology?

  1. Respect our kids' love of technology. Wherever did they learn it, after all? Besides, they will need those skills as adults for sure.
  2. Give some autonomy. Within that approved list of apps or sites or shows, let our kids pick how they want to spend their time.
  3. Value some tech use over others. Allow more time with technology for the healthy activities than the sedentary ones. When we show in word and deed (and time on the clock) that there is a qualitative difference in what our kids look at on a screen, they see that they have decisions to make. In our house, we give each boy 30 minutes of screen time, but 45 if they spend it playing "on your feet" games.
  4. Join in. Parental exercise and our attitudes towards it are one of the greatest predictors of whether our kids will be active.

There were so many great take-home messages for parents in this episode, I hope you'll check it out for yourself, and the iQ: smartparent community to see all the ways we can empower our kids! Airing on WQED June 20th at 8:00pm and June 23rd at 3pm, and it will be available online a little later in the month. And check out Common Sense Media for great information about games, apps and just about any media your kids might encounter.