Creating Active Families, Curbing Screen Time, Boosting Sleep

Children need to get at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day, and parents can help kids achieve that goal in many ways. Setting limits on television (TV) and other screen time—no more than two hours a day—is just as important as staying active. A good night’s sleep may also help children stay at a healthy weight.

Here is a summary of physical activity, screen time, and sleep-related obesity prevention recommendations for parents and families, based on a review of expert guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Institute of Medicine, and others. For more detailed guidance on these recommendations and ideas for putting them into practice, explore the source list and the links to other resources.

box title-physical activity (physical_activity_website_for_parents_and_families.jpg)

Related Topics (related-topics.jpg)

Read and print the complete list of obesity prevention recommendations for families.

Be active as a family, choosing activities that family members of all ages and abilities can enjoy (1,2,3,4)
Model active lifestyles for children by becoming more physically active and by limiting sedentary activities, such as television watching (1,2,3,5,6)
Promote safe physical activity, such as having children wear bicycle helmets (1,2,6)
Give children gifts that encourage physical activity (2,4,6)
Walk or bike to school with children (3,4)
Encourage children to play outside (1,2)
Help children play on a sports team or try a new physical activity (1,4,6)
Limit children’s TV viewing and recreational screen time (computers, DVDs, video games)

  • Children age 2 and older: Less than two hours of screen time per day (2,4,6,7)
  • Children under the age of 2: Avoid television watching/screen time (8)
Make children’s bedrooms TV-free, by not putting a TV in the bedroom or removing televisions that are there(2,4,6,7)
Avoid putting an Internet connection in children’s bedrooms (8)
Turn off the television during mealtimes (9)
Ensure children get adequate sleep, and establish healthy sleep habits early on (4,7,10)

Read more: Physical Activity and Sleep Recommendations for Children and Teens

Family Physical Activity, Screen Time, and Sleep—Source List

1. American Academy of Pediatrics – Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness and Council on School Health Policy Statement. Active healthy living: prevention of childhood obesity through increased physical activity. PediatricsOpens in New Window. 2006;117:1834-42.

2. Institute of Medicine. Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in the BalanceOpens in New Window. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press; 2005.

3. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Surgeon General’s Vision for a Healthy and Fit Nation 2010Opens in New Window Rockville: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General; 2010.

4. Let’s Move. Active FamiliesOpens in New Window. 2011. Accessed January 30, 2012.

5. American Heart Association. Overweight in ChildrenOpens in New Window. 2011. Accessed January 30, 2012.

6. American Academy of Pediatrics. Prevention and Treatment of Childhood Overweight and Obesity: What families can doOpens in New Window. 2011. Accessed January 30, 2012.

7. White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity. Solving the Problem of Childhood Obesity within a GenerationOpens in New Window: White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity Report to the President: White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity; 2010.

8. Strasburger VC. Children, adolescents, obesity, and the media. PediatricsOpens in New Window. 2011;128:201-8.

9. Let’s Move. Reduce Screen Time and Get ActiveOpens in New Window. 2011. Accessed January 30, 2012.

10. Office of the Surgeon General. Childhood Obesity Prevention: Parents and Caregivers Checklist. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2011.

Terms of Use

The aim of the Harvard School of Public Health Obesity Prevention Source Web site is to provide timely information about obesity’s global causes, consequences, prevention, and control, for the public, health and public health practitioners, business and community leaders, and policymakers. The contents of this Web site are not intended to offer personal medical advice. You should seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Web site. The Web site’s obesity prevention policy recommendations are based primarily on a review of U.S. expert guidance, unless otherwise indicated; in other countries, different policy approaches may be needed to achieve improvements in food and physical activity environments, so that healthy choices are easy choices, for all.

Terms of Use

The aim of the Harvard School of Public Health Obesity Prevention Source Web site is to provide timely information about obesity’s global causes, consequences, prevention, and control, for the public, health and public health practitioners, business and community leaders, and policymakers. The contents of this Web site are not intended to offer personal medical advice. You should seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Web site. The Web site’s obesity prevention policy recommendations are based primarily on a review of U.S. expert guidance, unless otherwise indicated; in other countries, different policy approaches may be needed to achieve improvements in food and physical activity environments, so that healthy choices are easy choices, for all.