“Get off the tablet and go play outside!”

kid on bike

Here in Texas, winters are a little different. While much of the northern part of the country is under a blanket of snow, we often get 65-70 degree days. We brag about it on social media. On the weekends, especially, my wife and I often say to our kids: “Get off the tablet, and go outside and enjoy the good weather.” Or, “No, you can’t watch a movie now—get outside and ride your bike.” As if it’s the weather’s fault that our kids sometime want to lay around and be lazy, we sometimes chide our kids into heading outdoors to run around. And most of time, while they’re out running around, I’m on my device working on something that could very well wait until later.

New research out of the University of Michigan, however, suggests that parents like us might have it all backwards.

The study, a survey of 278 parents of kids ages 3-6, found that the more parents watch TV, the less physical activity their child engages in. Even when accounting for children’s weekly television use, children spend less time engaging in physical activity the more their parent watches TV.

In other words, perhaps it’s not cold weather that keeps kids from engaging in physical activity. This new research suggests that the less parents watch TV, the more their kids get that exercise time they so need.

Research like this makes me want to change. In my mind’s eye, now, I see myself inviting my kids to go outside with me to run around and play on those warm, Texas winter days, instead of telling them to go outside. I see myself waiting to get on social media or answering work e-mails until the evening, when the winter chill settles in and the kids go to bed.

Said differently, if we want our kids to be active, we must stop telling them to get moving, and get moving ourselves.

And that’s something parents can start today. At least in Texas.

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