I Put My Step Tracker on My Kid & His Tally Shocked Me

step tracker on wrist

My kids both love getting to watch TV and play on tablets, so it seems hard -- especially when school's not in session -- to figure out how much is too much when it comes to screens. Or, it used to feel that way, until I slapped a step counter on my 8-year-old son!


In terms of full disclosure, my husband and I have been trying to figure out our family's screen time rules for a year or so now. We've tried giving the kids a certain amount of time per week and letting them budget it, but we stunk at keeping track of it. We've tried having rules that kids must read and do something creative before having screen time, but then felt weird about the idea of reading as a sort of chore and the tablet as the reward. 

As we faced another summer where the kids are less scheduled and have more free time, I felt it was time to revisit the screen time thing. After we talked about it for a while, it finally occurred to me that I'm not as worried about time spent watching Minecraft videos as I am about having a kid who is too sedentary. 

And, as someone with an office job who is on the computer all day, I know what sedentary is and the number it can do on your health. I recently started wearing a step counter as a way to measure how much I move during the day. I set my goal at 10,000 steps but was shocked to discover that some days I didn't even get half that many steps in. That accountability has me moving more and makes me wonder how much physical activity my kid is really getting. He seems active, but how active is he really? And does that level go down when screen time is on the agenda?

So, I decided to have my kid wear my step counter for the day just to see how much ground he really covers. 

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My son is a ridiculously early riser, so he'd been up for almost two hours before I was awake enough to get the watch on him. I got it adjusted for his skinny wrist and sent him outside to play. He played for an hour or so and then we went to a birthday party. A few hours later he came home, sweaty and red faced, and asked to do the tablet for his daily quiet time. I said sure, but that I wanted to check his step count first. 

Um, hello, highly active child!


Seeing that my son had well exceeded 10,000 steps before dinner time made handing over the tablet an easy decision.  

By the time my son went to bed that night, he'd had a full day that included watching cartoons on TV and fighting zombies on the tablet. He also ended up with over 15,000 steps and having covered almost eight miles. So, it turns out that he is actually more active than I thought he was, even with generous doses of electronic downtime. 

Now, this doesn't mean it's going to be all screens, all the time around here. I still want him outside more than inside during the summer. But I'm less worried about needing to have hard and fast rules about screen time. 

So, turn on those morning cartoons, kid -- you've earned them!

Images via iStock.com/Anthony Rosenberg; Wendy Robinson  

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