The impact of technology and screen time on children's physical activity levels
We all know how hard it can be to encourage children away from screens, whether it’s toddler TV or older kids on their phones, technology has, for better or worse become an everyday part of most of our lives. But with reports suggesting that only 9% of toddlers and 30% of 11, 13 and 15 year olds meet the CMO’s activity guidelines, it’s important to bring balance between technology and physical exercise into the lives of our children for the sake of their overall health.
While technology can be an amazing tool for learning and development, too much screen time and not enough movement can have serious health implications. Here at Beth Tweddle Gymnastics, we know how important your child’s physical health is and in this blog we will be discussing how an increase in screen time and technology use can have a negative impact on this, as well as your child’s mental health and sleep quality.
With more and more temptation for children of all ages to increase their use of technology, we wanted to share some of our tips on reducing your little one’s screen time and getting them moving.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle for your child can be very difficult when all they want to do is be on their phones or watch YouTube all day. Too much technology can not only prevent them from getting the exercise they need but it can also create unhealthy habits such as snacking.
With childhood obesity being a concern for a lot of parents, how can you reduce the risk?
We need to make exercise fun for our kids. Arranging playdates with their friends, siblings and even the whole family, can be a great way to not only set a good example for them but make exercise an exciting part of their daily routine.
Physical after-school clubs are also a great way to get them more active. This will decrease the opportunities for them to be in front of screens and help them build positive social relationships with children of their own age, which is a win, win!
It is more than just the old adage about your “eyes turning square”, it has been reported that short-sightedness has likely increased over recent years due to a decline in outdoor activities, where children require focus on things at a distance.
With too much time focussing on screens that are often within the close range of vision, technology may be negatively impacting your child’s eyesight.
So, it might be time to get the family together and organise a regular, active day outdoors to help improve their long-distance vision. This could be a family sports day or a game of Rounders or Badminton in the park.
For some inspiration on what other activities you could do with your children, check out our post 5 ways to get your little ones active over the summer holidays.
Your child might also like to take part in a particular sport such as tennis or basketball, which could help with hand-eye coordination and concentration concentration. Or they might want to try out a gymnastics club like Beth Tweddle Gymnastics and become a member of the BTG Family. They’ll be supported by friendly, approachable and qualified coaches to develop their gymnastics skills, which can significantly improve their hand-eye coordination! And most importantly, have heaps of fun whilst doing it!
If you’re thinking of signing your child up to a gymnastics club, why not have a look at our blog post on all the other incredible benefits, right here!
Sleep disruption can lead to our little ones being more tired throughout the day, affecting other areas of their lives, such as concentration levels, learning capacity and their overall mental state.
There is a well reported correlation betweenincreased screen time and a lack of sleep quality. Often referred to as ‘blue light exposure’, many health authorities around the world have reported the need for “screen-free time” before bed, usually around 60-90 minutes. While this advice is not limited to children, it is well known that toddlers, children and teens require more sleep than adults, so the impact of poor sleep can be devastating for school performance and mental development.
Top Tip- set a time limit and give your child the option to choose when they would like to use their allotted screen time, can make it feel less depriving and more of a reward…So less of a struggle for both of you!
You get to decide on the amount of time of course, but maybe they get a choice between 90 minutes before dinner or after dinner. (Assuming your dinner time isn’t too late). Also remember, if they have an evening gymnastics class, you might need to set some boundaries so they’re not starting their screen time at 8 o’clock at night!
Once they get used to this new routine, they’ll soon begin to wind down in the evenings, sleep more soundly and maybe even perform better at school as a result.
We all know how it feels when we’ve been stuck to our screens for too long and how it can affect our mood. Screen time generally means spending more time indoors which isn’t good for our mental wellbeing. This is even more true for kids, but unlike us, they aren’t always able to recognise the link, let alone help themselves.
Encouraging them to spend more time outdoors and less time stuck on devices is crucial for their mental health.
One study has shown that increases in adolescent’s screen time was associated with increases in depressive symptoms. This could be worrying if screen time goes unmonitored, considering more and more technology is being introduced into our lives. However, just like the other health impacts we’ve mentioned, there are ways to avoid this.
Starting the morning right and getting a balance between technology and physical activity, can make all the difference to your kid’s mental health and sets a precedent for the day.
This might look like introducing some morning stretches or yoga with your kids, walking the dog together or going for a bike ride. Getting their little bodies moving first thing will release endorphins which can combat stress and improve their overall well-being and mood for the day ahead.
Not all bad news...
Whilst some of these are quite concerning risks of technology and our kid’s health, it isn’t all bad. Technology is even beginning to play a role in improving our health and encouraging more movement into our lives.
Apps like Pokémon Go and other fitness apps and games are a great way to make fitness fun, whilst achieving your child’s fitness needs for that week.
The NHS advises that toddlers between the age of 1-4 be physically active for at least 3 hours every day, 3-4 year olds spending at least 1 hour of that doing moderate to vigorous physical activity and children between 5-18 years old also aiming for at least 1 hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day on top of that.
A final tip to help with the transition to a more active lifestyle would be, to try using some positive reinforcement once they’ve hit their activity goals. You could even use some extra screen time as their reward. This will give them more motivation towards making physical activity a new exciting habit moving forward.
We hope this helps you to gain some balance between technology and your child’s activity levels and has given you some ideas on how to tackle this in a way that suits both you and your little one.