Yesterday, Childhood Obesity News mentioned how Boston Children’s Hospital discovered that television is more of a childhood obesity villain than other types of electronic screens. Actually, it’s not the TV itself but the concentrated attention, which is somehow of a different quality than the attention paid to video games or computers, and this difference is manifested by the TV watchers’ higher BMI scores, which translate into overweight.
In related news, Dr. Deborah Gilboa told The Huffington Post that technology doesn’t make kids fat, and that there is a need to balance life and technology. She suggests four operating principles, the first being that parents respect their children’s love for technology. (Even at the bare minimum of acceptability, they are learning skills that help equip them for adult life.) But here is the important thing:
Value some tech use over others. Allow more time with technology for the healthy activities than the sedentary ones. When we show in word and deed (and time on the clock) that there is a qualitative difference in what our kids look at on a screen, they see that they have decisions to make. In our house, we give each boy 30 minutes of screen time, but 45 if they spend it playing ‘on your feet’ games.
Like many other counselors before, Dr. Gilboa advises allowing kids as much autonomy as possible, within limits. They have an approved list of websites or TV shows, and as long as they are doing one of those things, no problem.
The freedom-within-boundaries idea sometimes works with food, too. It’s better not to ask an open-ended question like, “What do you want for supper?” because you might not care for the answer, and then what? The question “Peas or corn?” limits the playing field and supplies vegetables, yet still allows for choice. Or the illusion of choice, which is all a three-year-old needs.
What is the fourth rule?
“Join in.” Dr. Gilboa says, “Parental exercise and our attitudes towards it are one of the greatest predictors of whether our kids will be active.” Absolutely. And this goes for parental attitudes about food choices, too. And everything else. Whether parents like it or not, kids will do what they see done, so every mom and dad has been drafted into the ranks of the Role Models whose behavior is such a huge influence.
You are invited to check out a couple of very short video clips to see what exergaming is all about. The first one shows the action on the screen, as a player’s representative “avatar” runs the course. In the second, we see an objective view of some parental-age people playing enthusiastically and setting a great example while a child lurks on a couch.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!