I am sure we have all heard our children say, “Let me just finish this level.”

We are only mid-way through the summer and parents are already beginning to count down the days until school starts again. For many families, video games and the TV are a good way to keep our kids busy and out of our hair. If your house is anything like mine, you’re probably tired of telling your kids to turn off the video games and go outside.

But then all they do is complain about how hot it is and how they can’t find anything to do. All of the healthy habits that we try to stick to during the school year all go out the window in the summer.

According to Kidshealth.org, it’s true that some studies have shown certain video games can improve hand-eye coordination, problem solving skills, can improve the mind’s ability to process information, and with some games, can encourage physical activity. But too much time playing video games and screen time can have adverse effects on our children.

Recent research shows only 5 percent of children ages 8 to 11 get enough sleep and exercise and little enough screen time to foster healthy development. And, 63 percent of children exceed the recommended two-hour screen-time limit.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (2016) recommends that children ages 2–5 years limit screen use to one hour per day of high-quality programming. They also recommend that children 6 to 12 years of age should sleep nine to 12 hours per 24 hours on a regular basis to promote optimal health.

In reality, overdoing video games can have a negative impact on friendships, brain development, weight management and, in many cases, influence children’s morals and values.

So, what can we do this summer to get our kids off of the PlayStation and onto doing something more productive? First things first, teach children that using the internet for entertainment is a privilege that is earned after other responsibilities like summer reading and chores are done. The next step is to get involved as a parent. Plan family or friend activities that do not include the internet or watching TV.

It is always important to lead by example. Practice healthy technology and internet use as a parent. Detach from your phone while spending time with them and don’t let your devices become a distraction from home life.

Probably one of the best things you can do to ensure safety and to monitor the time children are spending on their electronics is to keep all laptops, cellphones and computers in a public place where kids can use them in the presence of their family.

Dr. Raquel Garzon, a nutrition and wellness specialist, suggests other ideas for decreasing screen time and increasing physical activity.

• Set a limit on TV/video/computer/device time per day.

• Increase the use of video games and apps that are physical activity based.

• Go on family walks or bike rides.

• Do “silly dancing” to favorite music.

• Plan outside time with simple toys like balls, hula hoops or jump ropes.

• Give sports equipment or active toys for holiday or birthday gifts.

• Walk to school.

• Go on outings to the park or playground.

• Join a team sport the child is interested in.

• Be a role model — get active yourself, and actively play with your kids.

I completely understand that this is easier said than done, but we all want the best for our kids and this is one step that can help improve the lives of our children and their futures.

Upcoming programs

Upcoming programs provided by the Valencia County Cooperative Extension Service

• EANM Program for July: Presentation by Dr. Richard Melzer; 9:30 a.m., Wednesday, at Belen Masonic Hall, Free. No RSVP required to attend.

• Ideas for Cooking & Nutrition (ICAN) Classes: 10-11 a.m., Fridays, July 19, July 26 and Aug. 9, in the conference room at the Belen Public Library, 333 Becker Ave., Free. No RSVP required to attend.

• Diseases & Disorders: 10-11:30 a.m., Saturday, July 20, at the Bosque Farms Public Library, 1455 W. Bosque Loop, Free. No RSVP required to attend.

• Healthy Greek/Mediterranean Cuisine Cooking Class: Healthy cooking class focused on lowering sugar, salt and fat. Participants work together to prepare between 8-10 dishes which are then enjoyed by all for lunch. 9 a.m. to noon, Tuesday, Aug. 6, at the Peralta Methodist Church’s Community Education Building, 25 Wesley, $10 Fee. RSVP required by Thursday, Aug. 1.

• Building Self-Worth in Children: Free parenting class, 4:30 p.m., Thursday, July 25, at San Clemente Church in Los Lunas.

• StrongWomen 12-week exercise program, 10:30-11:30 a.m. in August at Belen Community Center at Eagle Park. $10 registration fee.

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Ann-Marie Wilson, Guest Columnist