"Change the world" is a term that tends to get misused, but when it comes to mobile technology, it's a suitable descriptor. Everywhere you look, people are staring at their screens.
In many ways, these gadgets have been tremendously useful. With a swipe or click, information is within reach. Appointments are seamlessly booked on scheduling software. You can even watch your favourite television show on the go.
However, it's these same conveniences that health experts warn can be harmful to children when overused.
As reported by The Guardian, a recent study from the University of Waterloo, University of Calgary and Alberta Children's Hospital Research Institute suggests that kids who interact with screen-related technology - such as TVs and mobile devices - may harm their developmental or motor skills. And the more time they spend on these devices, the more destructive the effects, particularly for young children.
University of Calgary's Dr. Sheri Madigan, who led the research, told the newspaper that it's in these formative years the brain begins to develop, a key period of time that can affect how children absorb and react to stimuli.
"What is new in this study is that we are studying really young children, so aged 2-5, when brain development is really rapidly progressing and also child development is unfolding so rapidly," Madigan explained. "We are getting at these lasting effects."
Toddlers Average 17 to 25 Hours of Screen Time Per Week
Watching television or interacting with portable gadgets isn't necessarily a bad thing. It’s the degree to which they're used that health officials are warning about. Based on statistics gathered by the Canadian Pediatric Society, 3 to 5 year-olds consume an average of approximately two hours of screen time in a typical day. That's in line with the amount researchers from the recent study found, totaling roughly 17 hours per week among 2-year-olds and increasing to 25 hours by the age of 3.
In addition to the developmental problems, excessive screen time is contributing to childhood obesity, as more young people are swapping jump ropes and baseball gloves for joysticks and tablets.
According to government data, approximately 30% of children under the age of 18 are overweight or obese.
With summer here, there are plenty of activities for kids to do that can get them outside, free to run wild and do what kids do best - have fun. Here are a few suggestions from the Alberta-based lifestyle blog Simple As That:
Have a Picnic
Everything is more fun when food is involved, especially when it's flavourful and enjoyable seasonal favourites like watermelon, cantaloupe, fresh strawberries or any other summertime staple. With your food all prepped, grab a blanket and basket, sit back and enjoy.
Go for a Bike Ride
If you got around on two wheels the majority of time as a young one, it's time to pass the baton on to your son or daughter. Just be sure they wear a helmet and ride in an area that's free of any potential sources of an accident. Also, be sure they use a bicycle that aligns with their age and size.
Whether you're tossing around a beach ball, football or baseball, a game of catch is a timeless activity that can be both interactive and relaxing all at once. The best part? Kids are almost never too young to learn.
Here's a list of a few other potential things to do:
- Walk the dog
- Hit the beach
- Play hopscotch
- Start a game of kickball
- Go swimming
- Draw, paint or sketch
- Build a treehouse or fort
The key to reducing your kids' screen time is consistency and finding the activities that can replace their sedentary, unproductive behaviours. They'll be all the better for it - and so will you.