Practice What You Preach
Someone told me recently they admire that I make my kids be active. Well, I try. Like most parents it’s a constant battle to get my kids to leave the electronics and go outside. These days it’s more about getting them off the computer than the television, as it has become the main source of entertainment with YouTube shows and Minecraft games.
My husband and I tried setting limits. Only one hour of computer time before dark because if it’s dark you cannot go outside and play. Then it was a rainy summer. Playing on the computer keeps three kids from fighting with each other so the hour creeped it’s way to two, three, five hours. Yikes! The American Academy of Pediatrics only recommends two hours of screen time a day.
One of my sons struggles with reading comprehension, so it takes him a long time to do his homework. Interestingly he has no problem reading and navigating his way around the Internet. So playing on the computer became an incentive for him to buckle down and finish his homework. He made the honor roll so again we relaxed the one-hour rule. My other son became a wiz at math games on the computer and that seemed like a good reason to allow him more time on the computer. Then the girl, as we refer to our only daughter, found “Facetime” a video chat application on her iTouch and now she must be in constant contact with her friend who moved to California. Does that count as screen time? I feel like we’ve lost.
When you read what the experts say it seems really bad:
More and more studies are warning that kids are increasing the time they’re spending in front of screens and the most obvious down side is the lack of activity, which can lead to obesity, diabetes and more.
One 2014 study out of the University of California Los Angeles found kids exposed to television and computer screens had a harder time reading human emotions than kids kept from screens for five days. Other studies say kids with too much electronics can have behavior and sleep problems. With the fast graphics and instant gratification they offer, experts say it can actually impede kids from being able to focus and pay attention in class or to normal boring human beings.
It’s a tough battle especially if you can look at your child and not see these effects immediately.
But think of yourself:
- How do you feel when you’ve been sitting for a long time?
- How do you feel if you’ve been doing it in front of screen? Do your eyes get a little blurry when you stop?
- What happens when you do this day after day?
- I know I feel crummy. Even when I don’t feel really bad I know I feel better when I’m active.
- It improves my mood, makes me stronger and strengthens my heart among many other benefits.
Let’s face it, you can nag your kids till the power bill is due but how do your children really learn?
By your example:
- Don’t tell your child to get off the computer and get outside.
- Take your child outside for a walk.
- Call them to the backyard and throw a ball. Bring them to the gym with you.
- Make sure they see and maybe join you in being active.
I tease the moms sitting outside the dance studio waiting for their kids to finish their classes. I say, hey! Why are you letting them have all the fun? Take a dance or fitness class yourself. Children usually do what they see. If they see you sitting around on your cell phone then that’s what they’ll aspire to. If you’re walking, jogging, biking and being active then they will learn that’s what you’re supposed to do.
My mother was adamant about brushing her teeth the moment she got out of bed and she never went out the house unless she first showered. I don’t remember her nagging me about this. I remember her doing this and now I do this too.
I had to remind myself this the past summer. When my youngest had no one to play with and was tethered to the computer I pulled him off and we went for a bike ride. I myself was happy to be outside and enjoying the nice weather in between the rainstorms. The dog was grateful too because when I was busy I made him take her for a walk.
Sure I sign them up for soccer leagues and swim team. But not everyone is a sports rockstar nor are these activities always available. So you need to be creative and you need to be able to practice what your preach.
I asked other parents for creative ideas for how they get their kids off the electronics and moving.
Here they are…
- Geocashing or scavenger hunt. Geocashing is a smart phone application that gives you clues to finding treasures buried by others with the app. Or you can make up your own scavenger hunt.
- If you have a trampoline or similar activity in your backyard tell them to go take a break doing it. Before they realize it they’ve been playing for an hour.
- Family Game Night where the whole family plays a game together indoors or outdoors.
- Family House Cleaning. I like this one! You can work up a sweat vacuuming or sweeping. A family that cleans together makes a happy mother!
- Make the cable or cord to the computer or tv go missing. They’ll either spend a lot of energy looking for it or find something else to do. It may be a little deceptive but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.
Talk to your doctor before beginning or changing an exercise regimen.
- Other ideas to limit screen time: http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/childrens-health/in-depth/children-and-tv/art-20047952?pg=2
- Research: http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/01/the-surprising-amount-of-time-kids-spend-looking-at-screens/384737