Balancing Playtime From the Screen to the Swing Set

Check out these tips for parents.

By Sten Kirkbak, Founder and CEO of Xplora

Modern families know both tech play and outdoor play are important for kids’ growth, but striking the right balance can be a challenge for some families. Technology is an essential – and fun! – part of our lives. It is a great way for families to stay connected, but we all understand the importance of teaching kids how to use it responsibly so they don't spend hours watching Twitch or playing Call of Duty.

A 2021 survey by AYTM found children between the ages of 4 and 10 spend more than 30 hours per week in front of screens, and more than half of parents are concerned about it. This is the equivalent of 2.1 billion episodes of Paw Patrol each week!

The pandemic exacerbated this issue, with 38 percent of parents reporting a decrease in their children’s physical activity during the pandemic.

The good news is that technology can help us to change. Smartwatches and other mobile technologies hold the key to providing children with greater independence and a safer onboarding to the digital world than a smartphone. They can also provide a better balance between screen time and physical activity.

Here are some tips for how to encourage children to be physically active and explore the world around them while still staying connected.

Not all screen time is equal – We’ve all heard you should set limits on screen time for kids. Getting specific about not just how much screen time kids get, but how they use it can help keep them engaged and educated. For example, for every 30 minutes of screen time, make sure 10 minutes is spent playing educational games.

Make every step count – Studies have shown that the step counters we have on our phones and wrists encourage physical activity in adults. They can do the same for kids, and many of today’s smartwatches for children come equipped with step counters.

Use tech to encourage outdoor play – Screen time doesn’t have to be pitted against outdoor playtime. Make up games that reward kids for how active they are each day. Make it easier, by looking for children’s smartwatches with step counters that are tied to online rewards including free access to games and other prizes like headphones and scooters. Some apps also let kids donate their step rewards to good causes, like planting trees, so their exercise doesn’t just feel good, it does good!

Let kids explore independently – Giving kids the freedom to explore the outdoors on their own can be scary for parents, but outdoor play has as many mental and emotional advantages as it does physical benefits. Talk with your kids and let them know where it’s ok to explore and what’s out of bounds. Consider giving them a smartwatch that lets you set up safety zones and alerts you when they wander outside of them for added peace-of-mind. 

Be a role model – As a busy parent of four kids, I know how hard it can be to shut down the computer and step away from the phone, but it’s so important that we remember our children are watching us. Making time to get outdoors and join in on the family fun not only sets a great example for your kids, but it’s also fantastic for your health, too.


Sten Kirkbak is founder and CEO of Xplora, a company that develops wearable connected products and services that help people to keep in touch with their loved ones. A father of four, he has more than 20 years of experience in telecommunications and technology. He holds multiple patents in the wearables space.

Top image via Xplora