Posted Heather Pressley, PhD on 10/24/2017 |Wellness Tips
Technology is an enormous part of kids’ lives today and, while it has many benefits, the negative effects include increased sedentary behavior and a decreased physical activity. In many schools, children are using laptops or other electronic devices for most of the day and kids continue to get smartphones at a younger age. Obesity rates are rising as children spend more and more time looking at a screen. Recent research shows that technology, specifically the smartphone, has had a negative impact on teen’s mental health as well, leading to greater isolation and anxiety.
Convincing kids to be active isn’t as easy as telling them to put their phones away and go outside. Here are a few tips for helping your not-so-active child engage in physical activities:
1. Give them a choice. Think about it, from a kid’s perspective they are told what to do all day with very little opportunity for free choice. For example, I ask my four-year-old, “Do you want to go around the block with me on your scooter or bike?”
2. Give them a voice. Ask them about their interests that include physical activity. For older ones, are there activities they used to do when they were younger, but no longer do? Would they like to try them again? Are there activities they’ve never tried but would like to try?
3. Make it fun. If your child is having fun and moving, they are more likely to stick with it and maybe even try new activities because of their new-found confidence and joy.
4. Make it social. Look for activities where your child can invite a friend or see if they can join a friend who is already engaged in something. After school programs can be a great way to get your child active and some incorporate activity as well as social emotional skills like building friendships (like Girls on the Run).
5. Make it non-competitive. If your child is not very active, throwing them into an ultra-competitive environment will only lower their confidence. Find activities that are collaborative or allow them to set and meet their own goals.
6. Make it family time. Our family has a traditional Sunday morning walk and our daughter is motivated by the fact that she can wear her jammies. Free from phones, TV and other distractions, we get to really connect in a meaningful way. A friend invites her girls on her nightly runs where they try to out-race each other (and her) on their bikes.
7. Bring recess back. Check with your school to make sure they are incorporating physical activity into the daily schedule. If they aren’t, ask why and see if there’s a way to bring it back.
With the ever-present use of technology, we need to make sure our kids stay healthy and active. The positive effects of activity go way beyond improving physical health - it’s been shown to improve emotional health, academic performance, decrease anxiety and ward off depression. All and all, getting our kids moving is a great antidote to the smartphone and will help kids long past their teen years.