One of the biggest problems facing parents in 2020? Getting their kids to take a break from their screens and get into sports or physical activities. As a matter of fact, many parents say their children have meltdowns whenever they ask them to put away their smartphones or stop staring at their laptops.
According to a CNN report on screen-time averages, kids up to eight years old spend an average of two hours and 19 minutes on screen media per day, with “about 72% of that time spent watching videos and tv shows.”
Children have an array of online entertainment options. They can stream movies on their smartphones, chat with friends on Facebook, share pictures and videos on Instagram, and tweet their thoughts, all while sitting complacently on the sofa eating a bag of Oreos.
Look Away from Your Screen, Honey
Suggesting that a child take a break from their favorite digital activities and engage in a sports activity may seem like a Sisyphean task, but consider some of the adverse effects of excessive smartphone use and addictive social media engagement.
Childhood Anxiety and Other Physical Maladies
Often a child ends up in a pediatric urgent care clinic with an unusual problem like intense anxiety or even a panic attack. These health problems seem strange in such young patients, but clinicians say the problems often develop due to kids’ reactions to online bullying and body-shaming. Doctors also report children coming in with chronic headaches and sleep disturbances as a result of cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying and Its Impact
Online taunting can lead to an increase in the stress hormone cortisol. Clinical studies have shown that kids who are repeatedly bullied online develop an increased fight-or-flight response. This occurs because of repeated interactions with negative stimuli online and can cause intense psychological discomfort, as well as low self-esteem.
The possibility that your child might be the victim of online bullying is a powerful reason to try to get them to take frequent breaks from social media engagement and excessive cellphone use.
If you find your kid struggling with anxiety, headaches or other health-related issues resulting from cyberbullying, Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+) is an affordable option for low-income families seeking quality care for their kids.
Limiting Smartphone Use at School is a Good Idea
In France, young students are not allowed to have cell phones at school at all. The reasons for the ban are simple. Educators want to: help students focus on their studies, reduce social media usage, and encourage kids to be more actively engaged socially and athletically while at school. Administrators also want to help discourage online bullying.
Banning phones at school may sound extreme, but some French parents have indicated that their kids were happier after the ban was put into place. Parents said that asking kids to take time out from their smartphones became easier at home as a result of not using them so much during the day. French educators also say it has improved student attention and even raised test scores.
Battling Childhood Obesity
One of the biggest reasons kids need to be more active is to prevent childhood obesity. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of kids (ages 0-5) who are overweight or obese increased from 32 million worldwide in 1990 to 41 million in 2016.
Childhood obesity can lead to a range of serious illnesses in adulthood, including Type II Diabetes, early-onset heart disease, musculoskeletal problems, and disability.
Factors Leading to Childhood Obesity
Environment. The household a child grows up in can impact whether they are obese or not. If the child’s parents and siblings eat an unwholesome, high-calorie diet, the child will follow suit. Likewise, if the family eats healthy foods and engages in sports activities, the child is more likely to do so.
Education. The level of education in the family makes a difference. If the parents are educated about the kinds of foods that are healthier choices for their kids, then they will raise children who are more likely not to become obese. It is not so much whether a parent has an advanced education per se, but rather the parent makes him or herself knowledgeable about how to help a child eat foods that are conducive to maintaining a good weight.
Socioeconomic status. Low-income families may, in many cases, simply not have access to the more nutrient-rich foods of higher-income families.
Getting Kids to Eat Healthier and Take Care of their Teeth
Healthy Eating Plan
The CATCH Plan, which is based on the Center for Disease Control (CDC) Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child idea is an interesting approach. CATCH helps kids understand what foods to choose from by dividing them into three categories.
GO foods: These are foods kids should eat every day and include whole grains, fruits, unprocessed and low-fat options.
SLOW foods: These foods should be eaten in moderation and include foods with a bit too much salt and sugar in them.
WHOA! foods: These are foods to be avoided and include options that are too high in fat and sugar to be considered healthy.
Introducing Berry Powder
A new dietary trend that many parents are adding to their kids’ diets is berry powder. This powder can be used to infuse smoothies and other drinks or foods with added antioxidants and other health-maximizing benefits to help with eye and gut health.
Encouraging Good Oral Health
Make regular dental visits a part of your child’s life. Giving them healthy, straight teeth can make them feel more confident in their smile and increase their self-esteem. Encourage your kid to brush and floss twice a day — morning and night. Also, have your kids use straws when consuming sugary drinks. This will help them avoid cavities.
Some Fun Sports and Activities for Kids
Here are some fun ideas to help initiate movement in your kids. Anything to get them off the phone and out in the fresh air is a good idea.
Camps for Kids: One of the best ways to get kids to move more is to send them to a day camp. Such camps offer an array of sports and activities for all types of kids. From frisbee to put-put golf and rock-climbing, day camps engage kids and get them active.
Group Sports Activities: Over 45 million kids in the United States play organized sports. Getting kids involved in a softball or soccer league will get them moving, help them to evolve socially, and shave off any extra pounds they have put on while binging on chips in front of the computer.
Swimming: Installing an above ground pool is an excellent inducement for kids to walk away from their smartphones and play. Your child might even build a lifelong love of swimming as a sports activity. Tip: Be sure to install outdoor lighting fixtures to help keep them safe when swimming at night. Also, add a locked gate to ensure they don’t get into the pool area when parents aren’t around.
15 Fun Tips that turn a Couch-Kid into an Active Kid
1. Pick the right sports activity for your child. Make sure to choose a sport that your child will love. A great way to inspire the child to get involved in a sport is to have the whole family play it sometimes. Whether its volleyball, ultimate frisbee, or soccer, find the activity that matches your child’s needs.
2. Ensure a safe environment. Be certain that your child’s clothes and shoes fit properly. Also, make sure the sports equipment and the area where the child plays the sport are safe.
3. Take time out for exercise. Even if your kid doesn’t get involved in a group sport, you can still build time into their schedule for exercise–swimming, jumping rope, playing kickball.
4. Turn yourself into a great role model. If your child sees you exercising or playing a sports activity, the child is far more likely to want to engage in these kinds of activities.
5. Set up a schedule of days and hours when electronics are off the menu. For instance, you could set a rule that no electronics are allowed at the dinner table or during certain hours of the day. This will encourage them to fill those hours with play and action rather than vegetation.
6. Give your kid a present that inspires them to take up a fun activity, like roller blades, footballs, or frisbees. You might also think about giving your kid a high-tech activity tracker they can wear on their wrist!
7. Plan an activity-based vacation. For instance, you could take your kids camping in a national park. This trip would include hiking, climbing, and a lot of walking. Or, you could plan a kayaking trip where the whole vacation revolves around this activity. Snorkeling would be another great vacation idea, and your kid would have so much fun, they wouldn’t consider it to be exercise at all. It would just be cool!
8. Make it fun. The byword for success in getting your kids into sports activities is fun. Everything about the activity should revolve around pleasure. The day-trips you take with them on the weekend should be movement-based and involve an aspect of interactive play. Think about taking them to the zoo or the aquarium. Kids don’t think of walking around seeing cool animals and interacting with them as being exercise. They just enjoy it.
9. Make exercise a mode of transportation. For instance, plan on walking with your child to the store, or running your errands together on a tandem bicycle. You might even opt to skateboard to the neighbor’s house instead of driving there.
10. Make it a competition. Everybody loves to compete. All sports activities revolve around the idea of winning big. Set a weekly challenge. Compete over who does the most jumping-Jacks each day, or how many steps each family member takes daily. Buy a pedometer to keep up with that. At the end of the week, the winner gets a prize.
11. Have a contest to see who can come up with a 100% healthy meal to serve the family on Sunday nights. The Internet offers an array of recipes with nutrient-rich components. Again, give a prize to the person who comes up with the healthy meal and an even bigger prize if the kid helps cook it.
12. Get the kids involved in household tasks. Many of the jobs around the house are rich with the possibility of movement. Whether it’s mowing the lawn, washing the cars, or mopping the floors, this can get kids be more active. Offer cash incentives for these jobs, and you will increase their desire to help.
13. Understand your kid’s athletic personality. Some kids are non-athletes who simply don’t have the stamina or coordination for sports activities. For these kids, you need to engage them in activities for pleasure, not for competition. Some kids are casual athletes but don’t enjoy the grueling nature of certain sports. And, then, you have kids who are just natural athletes. Know which type of sports personality your kid has so you get them moving in the right way for them.
14. Go to the mall. Kids still love a good walk around a mall so they can check out the newest fashion trends and see the latest and greatest high-tech gear. In the process of seeing all the sights, they are also getting in much-needed movement.
15. Get kids engaged in an outdoor hobby. A great and novel activity is creating a hummingbird sanctuary. You can take your kid to pick out the feeders, teach them how to mix up the nectar, and then make it their responsibility to keep the feeders filled. The other part of this hobby is that it is so much fun watching the tiny birds eat. If you don’t live in a climate that allows for this, you can set up squirrel-feeding stations, or other bird havens. Help your child research what each species of squirrel or bird likes to eat. Again, make them responsible for keeping the feeders full. Soon, you won’t be able to keep them inside.
Bonus Tip: Injuries can be an unintended consequence of sports and outdoor activities. If a child should fall prey to a personal injury during an activity, a good personal injury attorney can help.
If your child has a bone injury or other sports injury, finding a good pediatric orthopedist to perform bone repair is imperative.
Overall Health and Well-Being
The components of a healthy life for your child are simple: solid nutrition, sufficient rest, limited screen time, a low-fat, low-sugar diet, and increased movement. With these tools, you can implement a lifestyle for your child that helps them grow into active, lean, confident adults.