Impact of the Tablets on Kids Physical Fitness and Active Play
In 2007, according to Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA), 34.7% of children ages 6-12 were active three times a week in any sports activity, organized or unstructured; by 2014 that number had dropped to 26.9%.
The first iPad was released on April 3, 2010, since the launch of the iPad there has been an undisputable decrease in kids’ physical activity; however, the advent of tablet technology is not the only reason for the decline in physical fitness of America’s youth.
The decline is rooted in many factors, not just screen-time distractions.
There’s no question that American youths are plugged in and tuned out of “live” action for many more hours of the day than experts consider healthy for normal development.
It starts early, often with toddlers handed their parents’ cellphones and tablets to entertain themselves when they should be watching the world around them and interacting with their parents, grandparents, sibling, and friends.
Physical Consequences To The Overuse Of ‘Screen Time’ and Inactivity
There are physical effects to the overuse of ‘screen time.’ Just like their parents and other adults, kids develop pain in their fingers and wrists, carpal tunnel syndrome, narrowed blood vessels in their eyes – which the long-term consequences are unknown, and postural neck and back pain from being slumped over their phones, tablets, and computers.
According to the CDC, obesity now affects 1 in 6 children and teens in the United States.
- Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years.
- The percentage of children aged 6–11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 18% in 2012.
- The percentage of adolescents aged 12–19 years who were obese increased from 5% to nearly 21% over the same period.
- In 2012, more than one-third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.
What Are The Immediate Health Effects Of Childhood Obesity?
- Obese youth are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular diseases, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. In a population-based sample of 5- to 17-year-olds, 70% of obese youth had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
- Obese adolescents are more likely to have prediabetes, a condition in which blood glucose levels indicate a high risk for development of diabetes.
- Children and teenagers who are obese are at greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem.
What are the Long-term health effects of Childhood Obesity?
- Children and adolescents who are obese are likely to be obese as adults and are therefore more at risk for adult health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis.
- One study showed that children who became obese as early as age 2 were more likely to be obese as adults.
- Overweight and obesity are associated with increased risk for many types of cancer, including cancer of the breast, colon, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, pancreas, gall bladder, thyroid, ovary, cervix, and prostate, as well as multiple myeloma and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Childhood obesity is a complex health issue. The main causes of excess weight in youth are similar to those in adults, including individual causes such as behavior and genetics.
- Behaviors can include dietary patterns, physical activity, inactivity, medication use, and other exposures. Healthy lifestyle habits, including healthy eating and physical activity, can lower the risk of becoming obese and developing related diseases.
- The dietary and physical activity behaviors of children and adolescents are influenced by many sectors of society, including families, communities, schools, child care settings, medical care providers, faith-based institutions, government agencies, the media, and the food and beverage industries and entertainment industries.
- Schools play a particularly critical role by establishing a safe and supportive environment with policies and practices that support healthy behaviors. Schools also provide opportunities for students to learn about and practice healthy eating and physical activity habits.
Additional additive factors in include the food and physical activity environment, education and skills, and food marketing and promotion.
How Much ‘Screen Time is Appropriate?
Before age 2, children should not be exposed to any electronic media, the America Pediatrics Academy maintains, since “a child’s brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens.”
Recently Pediatrics released the result of a study on the use of technology by kids “Exposure and Use of Mobile Media Devices by Young Children” the results should serve as a wake-up call to all parents:
- Most households had television (97%), tablets (83%), and smartphones (77%).
- At age 4, half the children had their own television and three-fourths their own mobile device.
- Almost all children (96.6%) used mobile devices, and most started using before age 1.
- Parents gave children devices when doing house chores (70%), to keep them calm (65%), and at bedtime (29%).
- At age 2, most children used a device daily and spent comparable screen time on television and mobile devices. Most 3- and 4-year-olds used devices without help, and one-third engaged in media multitasking.
- Content delivery applications such as YouTube and Netflix were popular.
The patterns of use suggest early adoption, frequent and independent use, and media multitasking.
In its 2013 policy statement on “Children, Adolescents, and the Media,” the American Academy of Pediatrics cited these shocking statistics from a Kaiser Family Foundation study in 2010: “The average 8- to 10-year-old spends nearly eight hours a day with a variety of different media, and older children and teenagers spend more than 11 hours per day.” Television, long a favorite “babysitter,” remains the dominant medium, but computers, tablets, and cellphones are gradually taking over.
“We’re throwing screens at children all day long, giving them distractions rather than teaching them how to self-soothe, to calm themselves down,” said Catherine Steiner-Adair, a Harvard-affiliated clinical psychologist and author of the best-selling book “The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age.”
Heavy use of electronic media can have significant adverse effects on children’s behavior, health and school performance. Those who watch a lot of simulated violence, common in many popular video games, can become immune to it, more inclined to act themselves violently and less likely to behave empathetically, said Dimitri A. Christakis of the Seattle Children’s Research Institute.
Kids are spending more time than ever in front of screens, and it may be inhibiting their ability to recognize emotions, according to new research out of the University of California, Los Angeles.
The study, published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, found that sixth-graders who went five days without exposure to technology were significantly better at reading human emotions than kids who had regular access to phones, televisions, and computers.
Present guideline is that older children and teenagers should spend no more than one or two hours a day with entertainment media, preferably with high-quality content, and spend more free time playing outdoors, reading, doing hobbies and “using their imaginations in free play,” the academy recommends.
Kids Need Active Play to Develop into Well Rounded Adults
An article in the most recent issue of the American Journal of Play details not only how much children’s play time has declined, but how this lack of play affects emotional development, leading to the rise of anxiety, depression, and problems of attention and self-control.
Kids need time to daydream, deal with concerns, learn how to interact and demonstrate self-control and executive function along with process their thoughts and share them with parents, who can provide comfort and encouragement.
Kids have to know that life is fine off the screen. Children need an active play, where they are curious about other people, to learn how to listen, learn self-control and can function with empathy towards others, all key elements of play. Play teaches kids social and emotional intelligence, which is critical for success in life.
Play is a testing ground for life. It provides critical experiences without children cannot develop into confident and competent adults. The lack of childhood playtime is a huge loss that must be addressed for the sake of our children and society.
As children’s play time declined, this lack of play affects emotional development, leading to the rise of anxiety, depression, and problems of attention and self-control.
Five-year-olds today have the emotional development of 3-year-olds of the past. Parents must make the time to allow their kids to play because it brings many benefits to your child and you.
Children who are heavy users of electronics may become adept at multitasking, but they can lose the ability to focus on what is most important, a trait critical to the deep thought and problem solving needed for many jobs and other endeavors later in life.
Technology is and will be a poor substitute for personal interaction.
Benefits of Active Play
- Play gives kids a chance to find and develop a connection to their own self-identified and self-guided interests.
- Through play that kids first learn how to make decisions, solve problems, exert self-control, and follow the rules.
- Kids learn to handle their emotions, including anger and fear, during play.
- Play helps kids make friends and learn to get along with each other as equals.
- Play is a source of happiness, free of emotionally stress.
Exercise as Part of Active Play
Regular physical activity benefits kids, teens, and young adults in many ways, including helping build and maintain healthy bones, muscles, and joints; helping control weight and reduce fat; and preventing or delaying the development of high blood pressure (GAO, 2012). The benefits extend into adulthood. Exercise is one of the least expensive ways to stay healthy, with one study finding that exercise can prevent chronic diseases as effectively as medication (British Journal of Medicine, 2013).
Childhood sports participation is a significant predictor of young adults’ participation in sports and physical fitness activities.
Adolescents who play sports are 8 times as likely to be active at age 24 as adolescents who do not play sports (Sports Participation as Predictors of Participation in Sports and Physical Fitness Activities in Young Adulthood, Perkins, 2004).
Three-in-four (77%) of adults aged 30+ who play sports today played sports as school-aged children.
Only 3% of adults who play sports currently did not play when they were young (RWJF/Harvard/NPR).
Is your child engaged in active play?