According to the 2016 United States Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth, Americans should be grounded without access to video games, cell phone or TV for at least a month. Not only would this give us time to "think about what we did," but it might contribute to solving a bigger problem.
This recent release of research highlighting various findings on youth physical activity (and lack thereof) illustrates a concerning present and bleak future in regards to the health of youngsters.
It's nearly cliché now to bring up the fact that kids aren’t as active as they once were, but an examination of the data drives this point home like never before. Nearly 80 percent of American children miss the mark when it comes to the established guidelines for physical activity.
Of growing concern is that screen time, which has long been associated with inactivity, continues to increase. According to the report, 63 percent of kids are getting more than two hours of screen time per day. This is divided between television, computer, cell phone and video games.
The fastest growing and most profitable sector of screen time options for kids is video games. The level of imagination, engagement and sensory immersion involved with this $100 billion dollar per year industry was unimaginable years ago. Almost as unimaginable as the fact that about eight out of 10 kids are now relatively inactive.
As video game screens are siphoning our kids away from physical activity, it poses the question, "How can we compete with video games to get kids moving again?" After all, this type of technology isn't going anywhere (did I mention $100 billion a year?)
Get Kids Active By Being an Active Parent
I have been passionate about improving the health of our nation’s youth for nearly 20 years. During this time, I’ve worked with kids, coaches, parents, teachers and others to bring a sense of imagination, adventure and creativity into the world of youth fitness. After all, these are the aspects of the video game world that make it so appealing.
Have these programs been successful in competing with video games? Well, at least during the time that kids are participating, yes, they have. In a positive environment with active adults and kids with no access to video games, the thousands of kids I have worked with over the years have enjoyed engaging in physical activity, regardless of ability level. And then they go home…
I would really love to offer up a list of fun and creative games and tell everyone: "Just do these games and kids won't play video games any more." However, the solution to the inactivity issue involving video game play goes far beyond knowing a few fun activities. If we’re going to help kids, we have to address the systemic plague of inactivity that has infected our entire society. The available data has made it very clear that healthy, active kids are produced by healthy, active parents.
My frustration has reached its zenith when adults finger-point about what schools and other community organizations aren’t doing for their kids. What are we doing in our own homes? What example of an active, healthy lifestyle is being set under our own roofs? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the verage American adult is inactive 11 hours per day. Data on adult screen time suggests adults are in front of screens, recreationally, for roughly three to five hours per day. How can we expect our kids to be any different?
I’ve sat in family consultations for nearly 20 years, listening to inactive, overweight parents tell me "all their child wants to do is play video games." How does a 9-year-old get the money to buy a console, games and a separate TV from the rest of the family? Are there no enforceable rules in the home?
As a parent, I understand how screens have made our jobs easier. A child enthralled in a screen activity is usually not making any demands of us. We can enjoy a rare glimpse of silence. But here’s the thing. Just because it’s easy doesn’t make it right.
For more information on teaching kids about living a healthy, active lifestyle, visit: https://www.acefitness.org/acefit/youth-fitness/