In today's digital age, technology has undeniably transformed the way we live, work, and play. While it has brought numerous benefits, there's growing concern about the impact of technology on the physical activity levels of children. Let's dive in to see why this is a matter of concern and how we can work to fix it together.
Technology has brought an abundance of sedentary entertainment options that captivate children. The late 90s into the early 2000 brought the boom of video games with streaming services and social media joining it shortly after. With the popularity of these forms of entertainment continuing to grow often lead to longer hours spent sitting in front of screens. These activities can be highly immersive, making it easy for kids to sit for hours inside Infront of a screen and forget about physical activity.
With these new forms along with the easy access to technology children today are spending more time on screens than ever before. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the average American child spends more than 7 hours per day on screens, which is far more than the recommended 1 to 2 hours per day. This screen time often replaces outdoor play, which is essential for physical development.
By missing out on this outdoor play kids are living more and more of their lives inside and isolated from others. Missing out on crucial activities like running, swinging, and hanging from bars to allow children to explore their limits at a young age. It also allows for more socialization which is crucial for childhood development.
These problems are only becoming magnified because of the easy access to smartphones and tablets. Kids are no longer just on the TV in front of them at home but in the car, at dinners, and seemingly everywhere else. Parents often use these devices as digital babysitters, inadvertently promoting a sedentary lifestyle. Children as young as toddlers are now spending significant time on screens, affecting their physical and cognitive development.
The physical issues fall in line with the lack of outdoor time. A decrease in physical activity among children has significant health implications. Sedentary behavior is linked to an increased risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic health conditions. It can also affect bone health, leading to weaker bones and a greater risk of fractures.
But it does not stop at physical health. Mental health can also take a deep dive as it highly effects kids cognitive development. Being physically active improves focus, memory, and problem-solving skills. Reduced physical activity may hinder children's ability to learn and perform well in the classroom. Screen time has strong links to short attention spans so it should be no surprise that when a kid is expecting that instant gratification they will not care about school and work they do not feel like doing.
This bleeds into recess and lunch times as outdoor play and physical activities with peers help children develop social skills and emotional resilience. By not having enough of that in their day can effect how the socialize. A lack of physical activity can lead to increased social isolation and difficulties in forming meaningful relationships.
That all sounds really bad. So, what do we do to fix it? Parents and caregivers play a crucial role in shaping children's habits. Establishing clear guidelines for screen time and adhering to them can help create a balance between technology and physical activity. This means not just slapping a screen in front of your child because you are busy. Feel like too much? Technology is brand new and no parents had this distraction to give their children until about 10 years ago. If they did it you can to. If you don't know where to point away their attention that means it is time to look towards play away from screens.
Encourage children to spend time outdoors through activities such as sports, nature walks, or gardening. Let your kids be out and play with friends while you get work done while keeping an eye on them. Create opportunities for them to connect with the natural world and engage in unstructured, imaginative play. This will help them grow their minds and have healthier happier futures. But this is not something you can just throw on your child. You have to work on your habits too.
Children learn by example. Parents should model an active lifestyle by engaging in physical activities themselves. Take them to the park and play with them, bring them to the gym kids center while you work out, show them YOUR joyful movement. This not only encourages kids to be more active but also strengthens the bond between parents and children.
If you feel it is still too hard try and find ways that when given the technology it can be a tool to promote physical activity. There are numerous apps, games, and gadgets that combine entertainment with exercise, such as fitness trackers and interactive dance games. Find a way for the technology to help them become a better person in the future.
Technology can really become an addiction and it is our job as adults in kids lives to work to keep that from happening to them. Lets work together to help the new generations in this fast advancing world to stay true to who they are as kids and get them to go out and play like we did.