Technology is a wonderful thing, but it also has the power to be one of our biggest enemies when it comes to the health of our children. Childhood obesity is a rapidly-growing epidemic, and iPads, video games and television seem to be doing more harm than good.
Childhood obesity is caused by many factors. In Fit Kids Revolution: The Parent’s Diet-Free Guide to Raising Healthy & Fit Children, Dr. Riba came to the conclusion that the epidemic of childhood obesity “is a symptom of a changed world: greater technology, more processed food sources, sedentary behaviors, marketing ploys, sleep deprivation, stress, troubled finances, and the de-emphasis of the family unit—we are all just a little caught up in it.” Parents have only so much control over some of these factors, but technology seems to be one symptom of a changed world that can, in fact, be controlled to a certain extent. Many parents use technology as a way to keep their children occupied while they are busy working, shopping, driving, etc.
The American Academy of Pediatrics states that children spend an average of 7 hours per day watching TV, playing video games and using the Internet. The maximum recommended time per day is one or two hours. A YMCA survey concluded that over half of children between the ages of 5 and 10 spend less than four days per week playing outside. The study also showed that almost 75% of parents made the decision to spend family time watching television with their kids instead of doing other activities.
It’s clear that the parents have the ultimate power in how much time their child spends with technology. Granted, economic factors also play a part in the struggle of technology vs. physical activities. More than ever, parents are working over 40 hours per week to make ends meet while coordinating their schedules with their kids schedules, and they find it difficult to make time for physical activities. Also, families with economic challenges have to choose between afterschool activities like sports and paying rent or/ the mortgage. It is a fine line that is challenging to say the least.
What can parents do
Parents cannot leave it up to the children to make all healthy decisions for them. They must teach them and lead by example. For one, they can allow their children to utilize technology only at allotted times. Parents must be strict about the rules regarding when children can play video games, watch television, and play on their iPads. Ample time should be allocated for reading books, especially before bedtime.
Play with your kids. There is no better way to bond with your children than to put yourself out there and play with them! Go to the park and swing on the swings with them. Play a game of hopscotch. Teach them a sport that’s new to them like tennis or basketball. Ride your bikes on the park trail or play tag. Work up a sweat with them!
Have a calendar just for special and fun events. You can plan an activity every weekend and even during the week. Get your children involved and ask them what they’d like to do. Perhaps they would like to learn how to rock climb, roller skate, play a new sport or go to a kids’ yoga class. Use this summer to go to a water park to keep cool, bond and be active. By all means, keep technology away from during meal time. Tablets, phones and other devices should not be used while children are at the dinner table, and the same goes for parents! All devices should not be at arm’s reach when eating meals. Lead by example and it will definitely rub off on your children!