Posts Tagged ‘screen time’

Take Advantage of National Day of Unplugging

National Day of Unplugging starts tonight, offering us a chance to disconnect from technology and reconnect with family and friends.

Today’s guest blog comes from occupational therapist Robbie Levy, a highly respected authority in her field who has been successfully working with children since 1981.

Robbie was ahead of her time when she recognized the importance of early intervention and the need for therapeutic resources dedicated to children.

She founded Dynamic Kids, one of the leading pediatric occupational therapy practices in the New York region.Dynamic Kids logo

Below, she presents some cogent thoughts on why kids need to unplug, and how you can help them go about it.

National Unplugging Day

There is no denying the media, the Internet, video games, and computers are all part of our daily lives.

We use these electronic devices for a variety of reasons: for work, to assist us in our everyday routines, to keep up with friends, and for play and recreation.

For the most part, technological advancements have improved society.

But what effects do these gadgets really have on young children’s’ development as they grow?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children spend an average of 7 hours a day on entertainment media.

Limit Kids Screen Time

As a parent, it is crucial to limit children’s screen time and offer only educational media and non-electronic formats, such as books, board games, and sensory motor activities.

If your young child does use media, watch together and then talk about what you saw.

Or sing the songs together.

This will help guide your children to a better media experience.

In a child’s first 5 years of life, the brain grows rapidly.

Young children learn best by interacting with other people and directly from sensory and motor play with their bodies utilizing all their senses.

National Day of Unplugging from sundown on Friday, March 7th to sundown on Saturday, March 8th allows us 24 hours to reconnect with our children, family, and friends (and self) without the interference of technology.

As an Occupational Therapist and child development specialist for 33 years, I assure you this is a wonderful opportunity to unwind, de-stress, try new activities, or pick up an old one that you have forgotten.

Unplugged Activities

Here are some suggestions of activities that parents CAN do with their children on this day that will have the most powerful impact on a child’s sensory and motor properties.

You don’t have to limit these suggestions to a National Day of Unplugging, so feel free to do them frequently.

You will be providing your kids with the ingredients they need to strengthen their bodies and minds.

1. Go out in nature!

Even if the weather is cold, take a walk, play in the snow, ice skate, or go sledding.

Do something physical but also talk about what you see and feel in the world, that is, the colors, textures, temperature, clouds, and animals.

2. Start a garden indoors or outdoors!

Dig, plant, hoe, spread dirt, and plant seeds.

Work with your hands and have your child get his or her hands dirty.

3. Cook together!

Especially focus on the gooey stuff, such as mixing, stirring, spreading, and pouring.

For older children, allow them to cut and chop with supervision.

4. Read together!

Tell each other stories.

Ask questions about what you are reading.

Ask your children to anticipate what they think will happen.

Ask them to make up a different ending.

Or simply tell stories to each other.

5. Play with manipulatives together!

Try various types but especially ones that require pushing and pulling.

Try pop-beads for younger hands and Zoobs for older hands.

Don’t tell your children what to make.

See what they come up with and then talk about it.

6. Make an obstacle course indoors or outdoors!

Use furniture, toys, and pillows, and then go over, under, through, and around objects.

Change directions and go the other way.

Then try crawling backwards.

Unplug and enjoy!!!!!

More Screen Time Means Less Fit Kids

As the father of two electronically stimulated teens, I’m keening aware of the countless hours they spend in front of their laptops listening to music, chatting with friends, watching TV shows, or surfing the Web.

Now there’s more evidence that kids who spend more time in front of electronic devices are less likely to be fit.

The study was published in the June edition of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, the official journal of the American College of Sports Medicine.

Researchers followed more than 5,000 children from age 12 to 16 to determine changes in their sedentary behavior.

Each child recorded his or her screen time and completed a shuttle run test to provide a measure of fitness.

Importantly, the researchers adjusted for time spent in high-intensity physical activity.

“In this technology age, children spend more time in sedentary behavior,” said lead author Jonathan Mitchell, Ph.D., then at the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina.

“We wanted to see if high screen-based sedentary behavior affected cardiorespiratory fitness levels in childhood, and if this effect was independent of physical activity levels.”

As you might expect, the kids who had more screen time completed fewer shuttle run laps.

The association was strongest for the children who had mid-to-high fitness, and was independent of physical activity levels.

The researchers suggest that if the kids spent less time being sedentary, that is, had less screen time, their fitness levels would increase.

“The results are interesting and add to the evidence that spending too much time sitting is hazardous to children’s health,” said Mitchell. “If children limit the amount of time spent sitting in front of a screen, then this could help to combat declining levels of cardiorespiratory fitness in youth.”

I encourage my kids to get outside and be active whenever possible.

Luckily, they are both athletic and love to skateboard, shoot hoops, kick around a soccer ball, or play catch.

I try to keep up with what they are doing on their laptops so I’m in touch with what they like, however, there’s only so much dub step music one can take.

I suggest they practice the guitar or drums instead of mindlessly listening to tunes, and I am moderately successful.

And now I have even more motivation to get them to limit their screen time.

Potential vs. Actual Benefits of Exergames

Interactive, digital exercise games (think Wii Boxing and Dance Dance Revolution) can lead to a high level of energy expenditure by teens.

But do these games have real value as exercise substitutes in the long run?

The increase in teens’ “screen time” — watching television or videos, using a computer, surfing the Internet, and playing video games — has led to an increased interest in activity-promoting video gaming or video games that require physical movement and feature “real-life” player movement.

Active video games have the potential to increase energy expenditure during otherwise sedentary video gaming and may provide a viable adjunct to more traditional exercise, according to a recent study in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.

The 39 boys and girls (average age 11.5 years) played 6 exergames — Dance Dance Revolution, LightSpace (Bug Invasion), Nintendo Wii (Boxing), Cybex Trazer (Goalie Wars), Sportwall, and Xavix (J-Mat) — and also walked on a treadmill at a moderate 3 miles per hour pace for 10 minutes.

All of the exergames led to higher energy expenditures than walking and spurred high-intensity physical activity.

Everyone said they enjoyed the exergames. Those who were overweight seemed to enjoy them the most.

But the researchers admit that “the potential of these games to promote fitness and extended periods of moderate to vigorous activity in normal and overweight youth has not been evaluated.”

One such study has looked at one of these exergames and found it doesn’t hold teens attention for very long.

The Health Games Study is a 2-year study to explore how exergames could be designed to improve player health behaviors and outcomes.

“We were interested in exploring the duration of game play over time,” principal investigator Gregory Norman, PhD, of Department of Family and Preventive Medicine University of California, San Diego, told me.

Some 63 boys and girls (average age 13) were randomized to play one of 4 versions of Xavix sports games –tennis, bowling, boxing, or J-mat — for 4 weeks.

Norman shared the latest results of the study with me. Weekly game log entries showed that 98% played during week 1, 47.5% played at least once during week 2, 55.7% played during week 3, and 37.7% played during week 4.

Only 1 in 5 played the exergame at least once during all 4 weeks, notes Norman.

His conclusion: the teens did not sustain exergame play over the 4 weeks and decreased play substantially after the first week, which is consistent with other studies that have examined exergame play over time.

“Exergames will continue to become more sophisticated in the kinds of activity experiences that can be offered. For example, more game platforms (Xbox Kinect) will track both upper body and lower limb movements to encourage more physical activity that will increase energy expenditure,” Norman says.

Yes, an exergame is better than watching TV or Facebooking friends for hours on end.

But teens still to find a fun way to get in regular physical activity that they will stick with, hopefully for the rest of their lives.