by Hilary Smith
The popularity of family-friendly online games like Angry Birds, Plants vs. Zombies and Minecraft has pulled the younger set deeper into the gaming world and helped solidify their obsession with the screen. The typical ‘Gamer’ profile used to predominantly comprise of older teens and young adults, now 29 percent of all gamers are under age 18.
Text messaging, video games, streaming movies and social media have all led to today’s kids spending nearly seven hours a day watching a screen, despite persistent recommendations from pediatricians for children’s exposure to be limited to two hours each day. Hours spent devoted to screen time are valuable hours that have been lost for children to engage in physical activity and improve their health and wellbeing.
Sitting sedentary and staring at the screen – be it via a mobile device or the TV – contributes to obesity. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 12.7 million children between the ages of two and 19 are obese. Suffering from obesity in childhood may cause Type 2 Diabetes, high blood pressure, breathing issues such as asthma or sleep apnea, joint problems and numerous other issues—including lower self esteem.
However, plucking kids off the couch and putting into motion is a battle for many parents. The allure of a media device is ingrained in today’s generation—so much so that separating the kid from the device almost feels like removing an appendage.
Parents need to work with devices and use technology as a way to engage kids and teens in healthy doses of physical activity. While many parents see the device as a foe, it could and should be a parent’s greatest asset. Here are five ways parents can use technology to encourage kids out the door and into a healthy dose of activity:
1. Moves encourages kids to move. The app Moves tracks activity and keeps kids and older teens accountable. Like fitness tracking wristbands, Moves tracks steps, tracks burned calories, times runs and keeps what the app calls “the activity diary of your life.” For older tweens and teens, fitness tracking apps can help bolster competitive spirit; parents and kids can see who can walk the most steps, or the family can set a team goal with special rewards as the incentive. Always make competitions friendly and fun.
2. Catch them all! Download Pokemon Go and try to track down and catch all the cute characters. Pokemon Go features a fun scavenger hunt design that encourages kids to get out and move. Teach older kids to always be aware of surroundings when playing and to not trespass on private property when hunting for Pokemon. With younger kids, schedule family Pokemon Go trips out to zoos, parks and other areas to get out and explore…and find Pikachu, of course!
3. Use the web to find new ways to move. The web is the ideal resource to find exciting and crazy new ways to get moving as a family. Log on to YouTube for instructional yoga videos for beginners. Learn to Prancercise, or grab a few fun-hued hula hoops to help tone and strengthen core muscles.
4. Interactive video games. Game consoles like the Wii require players to actually play the game with their bodies. Games with interactive systems require more than just moving a joystick…players must move their bodies as they would when playing an actual sport or activity. The game Just Dance makes players move the body to the beat, which provides a fun workout in the midst of a game.
5. Daily Mile. The app Daily Mile is the social media center of the workout world. Users can post about daily workouts and get encouragement in return. Daily Mile is the place where everyone can feel comfortable when bragging about a run, a walk or their weekly cardio. Families can have an account and post milestones, or older teens can sign up to begin their own fitness journey. Like all social media sites, parents should always be aware of accounts and postings.
Parents shouldn’t fear the world of technology, they need to use it as an asset to help the e-generation choose the world of fitness and health instead of a sedentary lifestyle. Parents that have active lifestyles show kids that an active lifestyle is important to good health. Get moving with kids and use technology as the bridge that unites generational gaps.