British children are among the least active in the world, and fitness levels are plummeting, a damning international study has found.
Experts said the results were alarming, showing that movement was being “stripped out” of modern lifestyles, with children weaned on screen-time and starved of outdoor activity. It is incredible (and terrifying) to watch tiny toddlers working on touch-screen tablets and phones. It is just so intuitive. For a lot of us the fact that our kids very, very quickly become dependent on that screen and do not want to let it go is, frankly, seriously alarming. You then enter the phase of trying to negotiate with a toddler / young child / tween / teenager about screen time and what science is saying about excessive exposure, addiction, dangers of social media etc. And if you are the parent of a child like mine, you will know that at that point all they hear is “Blah, blah and more blah-di-blah.” And you get that look that tells you in no uncertain terms that you are most definitely a life-destroying moron.
Unicef has published a review on the effects of digital technology on children’s psychological wellbeing, including happiness, mental health and social life. This suggested that some screen time could be good for children’s mental wellbeing, but that too much had a negative impact.
And it seems according to a number of surveys (as if we can believe any of those 😉 ) that around a third of parents think a maximum of 3 hours screen time a day is acceptable, with about 3% saying unlimited screen time is the thing for their offspring to ensure that they do not get left behind in an ever more digital world.
For me, personally, I feel that the kind of apps, programs, games etc. my kids use on their various devices is not necessarily making them any more (or less) equipped for the digital world than the child who has unlimited screen time. The difference is that even though my kids dislike me for being a “freak parent” they can communicate with actual real people with confidence, they enjoy (after 20 minutes of grumbling), sport & outdoor pursuits and they get enough sleep because even though they are now 14 and 16 we ban screens from bedrooms and they have a set bedtime (don’t tell their friends, please).
Maybe one day when they are considerably older they will look back at growing up with dinosaur parents and thank us that they can actually get involved with sport and physical pursuits without first having to overcome the obstacles of never learning fundamental movement skills as children.
And with that I will hop, skip and jump on out of here.
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