Summer holidays provide many opportunities for children to go out and play, swim and have fun. As the routine to go back to school settles in, the tendency to more sedentary activity increases. The electronic age with computers, tablets, hand held games, has fuelled a sedentary activity with more time sitting at home and at school.
Various factors influence sedentary activity, which tends to increase with age. Boys spend more time watching TV or playing computer games than girls during adolescence. Studies also show that young people tend to have higher levels of sedentary behaviour if their parents or siblings also engage in high levels of sedentary behaviour. Having more TV sets or computers within the home and having a TV in the bedroom is also associated with higher and more regular usage.
Leading a sedentary lifestyle has various effects on health and wellbeing. Long hours of watching TV has a negative effect on children’s wellbeing, including lower self-worth, lower self-esteem and lower levels of self-reported happiness. These children also tend to experience higher levels of emotional distress, anxiety and depression. From age two, and possibly younger, children who watch less than an hour of TV a day are at lower risk of becoming overweight and tend to eat more nutrient-rich foods than children who watch more TV.
Young children who watch less than two hours of TV a day have better cognitive development, short-term memory, language skills and a wider vocabulary. The more active a child is, and the less sedentary activity, the better his or her health would be. A rough guide for parents has been developed by various authorities to help parents get their children up and moving:
- Limit time watching TV, using a computer and playing electronic games.
- Remove televisions, computers and electronic games from bedrooms.
- Use a timer or an alarm clock to keep track of how much time they spend watching TV, using a computer or playing electronic games.
- Limit the number of televisions, computers and electronic games you have at home.
- If possible walk with them to school. If you live far from school park a few metres away and walk the rest of the way.
- Think of fun things to do as a family instead of watching TV.
- Try to have at least one day per week whereby your family doesn’t t watch TV, use a computer or play electronic games.
- Be a role model for your child, so try to limit how much TV you watch and time you spent using a computer.
- Give your child active alternatives.
- Choose active presents for your children and keep active games at hand.
- Encourage an active lifestyle for the child through a family based concept with all the family actively involved. This will enhance well-being.
For more information contact the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Directorate on 23266000 or [email protected]
© 2016 – VIDA Magazine – Dr. Charmaine Gauci