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Active Time Equal To Screen Time

 

Children are bombarded by screens – TV screens, computers, video games, cell phones, etc. These technologies have positive and negative attributes, but the world doesn’t stand still and those good old days without all this technology aren’t coming back. So rather than mourn the changes, acknowledge that times have changed and adapt. Bring what you can of the good old days forward in your parenting in any way you can.

Limiting screen time is a frequent recommendation and that can be taken a step further by balancing screen time with active, engaged time. Active time is spent physically interacting with the world through sports, exercise, playtime, arts and crafts or merely chatting with friends. Active time employs many of the senses. For example, outdoor games or sports activities use the vestibular and proprioceptive senses. Art projects use the tactile sense when cutting, pasting, painting, etc. So, to balance your child’s development add at least as much active time as screen time to your child’s day.

Here are a few examples of the contrasting experiences provided by screen time and active time. Screen time develops fine motor skills through the hand-eye coordination needed to play video games. Active time develops the fine motor skills needed to hold a marker, pencil, fork, etc. or the gross motor skills needed to move from one place to another, or climb, jump, swing, etc.

Screen time develops written communication, though often in a slang, shortcut manner, through email and texting. Active time develops the auditory processing skills needed to listen and respond. Screen time bombards the visual senses requiring rapid fire processing of graphic visual images. Active time develops the direct communication skills of face-to-face processing of words, facial expressions, and gestures.
Active time addresses stress and mood as well. Physical activities release endorphins that are known to be mood elevators. This isn’t surprising since being airborne while jumping on a trampoline or gliding through the water when swimming are fun sensations. Physical activities also release tensions. My father used to name each tennis ball he hit to release frustrations he had with a person or situation. That is a healthy frustration release.

So what are good ways for children to get that active time? Gymnastics classes help a child become comfortable with movement and the basics of playground skills. In the early years most of the socialization still occurs on the playground. Giving a child the tools to feel competent on the playground is one of the best things you can do. Children who are uneasy and timid when given an opportunity to play freely may be perceived to have behavior issues because of the ways they cope with their insecurity. The boy who bulldozes over other kids is often running aimlessly around, uncertain as to how to approach other kids or the playground equipment. Other kids are timid and afraid to try any of the equipment or to interact socially, so they resort to hanging around the teachers or complaining when other children do the slightest annoying thing. Gymnastics classes help children become proficient at jumping, rolling, and climbing. During gymnastics class they will have opportunities to observe other kids doing the skills and also have time to interact with their peers. These learned skills translate into playground success stories.

As you organize your fall schedule, work on balancing the time your child spends on the computer or in front of the TV screen with plentiful opportunities for active play, physical and participatory activities, and direct communication with friends and family. Your child can be technologically savvy, as well as confident in social settings and active play.

Copyright 2007 Your HEALTH Magazine