Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Weekly Thoughts

Tangent Tuesday will now be weekly thoughts, thus freeing me from any type of deadline :)

Kids Will Be Kids

Bridging The Generational Gap

So I’ve heard two different debates in the past week regarding children playing video games and watching television and how much is too much or should it be allowed at all. So for this weeks’ rant I thought I’d chip in my two cents and let you guys know how I feel from a fitness professional s point of view.

I’ll start by sharing my experiences. Growing up I played video games, watched television just like any American kid has done in the technology era. However, I was also very active, taking weekend trips to our cabin, playing school and community sports, playing outside with neighborhood kids, I felt like my parents did a good job balancing out my schedule. I remember I would sometimes play video games for an hour or so after I was all cleaned up and ready for bed. As I got older, I and able to make my own decisions, I would play games and watched television for longer periods of time, but it was still expected of me to complete my chores, and have my homework finished, and of course attend sports practice. I’ll admit some of that that didn’t always happen, but video games or TV never interfered with my studies or sports. I also found out that I would play the games, sometimes for 3 or 4 hours, but after a few sessions like that the novelty of it wore off and I found myself playing less and less, eventually moving on to another activity or hobby.

So here was one debate I heard, should parents try to keep their kids away from video games and television as much as possible? Or does allowing them access to digital content keep them up to date on what is the ‘in thing’.

I found this interesting because I had never thought of it like that before. So if you think about what teens are talking about while they interact with each other, example: American idol, dancing with the stars, family guy, keeping up to date with MTV and even younger kids with their shows (I’m not sure what’s popular now) I know I watched power rangers a lot when I was a kid. When they get to school if you’re someone who’s in the loop you’re more likely to be social with others and make friends easier. If they know a little bit about a cool game: madden football, halo, need for speed, grand theft auto, whatever, these are things that kids are talking to each other about.

Lets try to avoid this statistic, moderation is the key

I always thought of it from the point of view where gaming and watching television makes people anti-social. Well, now if I were a parent I think I’d rather have my son/ daughter be the cool kid, and at least know what people are referring too; instead of the quiet kid who gets lost in the mix. This kind of changed my point of view, and how I would handle the situation if I had a child.
Now as a health professional I feel very strongly that there needs to be some lessons taught about how to use technology. Younger and younger children are learning how to use technology efficiently and effectively. I think it’s the job of the parent to teach a child to be responsible while using technology. They need to learn, early, to prioritize needs and place importance on such things as helping around the house and getting good marks in school, and their physical health and social health. Parents definitely need to encourage their children to get outside and be involved in activities where they are learning teamwork skills and how to appropriately interact verbally with other children. I feel that a child should earn the right to watch television or have gaming time. If monitored and trained correctly as a young child, when they are old enough to make their own decisions hopefully they understand well enough to know when its time to shut it down. Technology shouldn’t become a distraction to the more important things that shape our lives.

Becoming addicted: I understand the fear some parents may have about their children becoming hooked on television or addicted to gaming. I think it is a very real concern. Today I was listening to the radio and the dr. suggested the “would you rather” test. If you think someone is spending too much time in front of the screen ask them, “would you rather play video games/watch tv than __________,” fill the blank. If you get more yes’s than no’s maybe it is time to seek help from a professional.

There is a responsible way to teach children what is most important in life, to be able to differentiate between real life and fantasy. Be sure your setting the right example by being responsible yourself and adopting healthy life-long habits. Remember children learn a lot of their habits by watching the behavior of others around them. But, I don’t think a little time spent in front of the ol’ tube is going to fry their brain, now for hurting their eyes probably another discussion.

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