It would be an understatement that the recent consumer hardware revolution brought about by smartphones, wearables, accessories have caused a substantial shift in our lifestyles. We are now living in the world of instant news, updates, communication as well as instant entertainment.
For kids, the avenues to amuse themselves include PC and mobile games, Virtual Reality, TVs, social media apps. The previous generation’s amusements includes outdoor activities such as as games, treks etc on a daily basis while games, TVs and social media have replaced these and have confined kids largely to home.
Such a lifestyle results in decreasing face to face interactions leading to social isolation & other emotional issues and a decline in general physical activity with multiple consequences. Research findings have indicated that the social isolation and sedentarism are contributors to various child health, development & behavioral issues and hence a more active lifestyle that includes physical activities cancels out such negative effects of our changed lifestyle.
Psychological literature points to the strong link between motor development during infancy and early childhood and the growth of the brain. Books on teaching and learning & public health advisories based on such books stress upon the importance of body movement for brain development and learning. Here we reproduce from a New Zealand public health advisory some of the important points that show the various benefits of movement on a child’s health.
1. Physical activity fuels the brain with oxygen.
2. Certain movements stimulate the inner ear that helps physical balance and motor coordination.
3. Movement decreases stress, which is critical for learning to take place.
4. Visual tracking of moving objects (eg. balls) is crucial for a child’s eyes to learn to work together and for vision to develop the correct connections in the brain.
Thus, being physically active is quite important in a child’s life. Most parents have also heard about the traditional received wisdom about the importance of being physically active; so it’s about time that we make time for variety of activities available outdoors while simultaneously limiting the “screen time” kids have with the various portable electronic devices such as tablets and smartphones.
Do’s and Don’t’s for cutting out screen time & increase physical activities
1) Encourage her to explore and take part in activities such as walking amidst the nature (city parks would be an ideal avenue), running & jumping etc
2) Encourage play time and play dates with other kids. In addition to the general sense of joy it brings, children learn through play; learning can be in the form of physical, social or language skills that will benefit her sensory & memory development.
3) Don’t make the mistake of thinking that your children will do as you say regardless of what you do in similar situations. Children are keen observers and often do as their parents do; this is the copycat effect. So, if you want them not to use their mobiles/tablets at bedtime, then you yourself have to desist from doing so; else you will not get the expected behavioral outcomes from your child.
4) Strike up a good & interesting conversation regularly: If you are not able to use every single opportunity to talk to your kids, then you can be sure that your kids will turn to TV and social media media for engaging themselves.
5) Use those social media and apps that improve your kids’ exercise habits. Recent research indicates that for creating long lasting habits of physical activity and exercise, a fitness motivator can be more effective than monetary incentives. There are many apps and social networks that promote and motivate people to include physical activity as part of their routine. Showing your kids these and encouraging them to use these apps will also be helpful in using social media and apps for one’s own benefit rather than abusing them to your own detriment.