As your children make their holiday wish lists, video games, smart phones, iPads, and perhaps expensive headphones will likely top the page. As you ponder which items to buy, keep in mind that your purchases carry power. Please use that power wisely. What you choose to buy can help enhance your child’s life and improve chances for success. Conversely, your decisions on digital media could contribute to a stagnant and sedentary lifestyle.
A recent study showed that the growing sedentary trend among our youth can be reversed. The study, published in Pediatrics, found that greater amounts of physical activity in young people correlate with decreased amounts of screen time. Researchers surveyed 5,685 households and 7,415 youngsters ages nine to fifteen. One striking feature of their findings strongly suggests that simply establishing limits with children leads to less screen time overall. The holiday vacation can be a time of sloth and indulgence. We all need a break, but it is important that you don’t let your kids disappear into the cyber world. Make them exercise. Link game time to other, healthier activities. Get outside and do things as a family. Sitting in front of a screen seems to be our default nowadays. Find ways to interrupt that pattern!
Better yet, buy video games that do that for you. Aerobic video games, like Dance, Dance Revolution (DDR), are a powerful tool. They train the body and mind, as well as enhancing overall coordination. Fitness-oriented video games attract and engage many of those who generally would not even think about exercising. I recommend that families augment their video game arsenal with these types of aerobic games, and, even better, play them as a family. The Wii gaming system is one I highly recommend because it has multiple aerobic options. Wii Fit, for example, provides a compelling combination of exercise and fun. Many of my cyber-addicted clients struggle with weight issues. Systems like the Wii Fit help beat them “at their own game.”
I recommend EA Sports Active NFL Training Camp for an active workout with a theme that will please and engage any sports fan. It’s like you’re actually in a legitimate NFL training camp, rather than sitting in your arm chair getting fat while you watch your team play on TV! For younger children, I recommend Nickelodeon Fit. The game is packed with 30 scientifically-developed and designed exercises that target a variety of fitness areas that are important for healthy physical development in children. Nickelodeon Fit is the perfect way for parents to ensure that their young children remain active as they are entertained by their favorite cartoon characters. This game helps set an early tone with children that exercise is important. Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort offer dozens of game applications that exercise the mind and engage the body, and can be played with the whole family. By making use of some of these options, you help create balance for your children, and you might even find that family time is increased and improved. If you do not have the Wii, most game consoles come with aerobic options. Check them out.
If you have one of those youngsters who plays video or computer games to excess, buy yourself the present of parental control devices. You may need parental control software to monitor and control computer time, or in many cases, lock boxes might be more appropriate. Family Safe Media offers a variety of tools to meet your specific needs. Check out that site! Don’t wait until you have a full-fledged video game addict. This upcoming vacation season would be a perfect time to try out some of these options and get a workable system in place before the stress and busyness of the school year is once again upon us.
Use this holiday season to help your children find balance and to encourage them to be more productive and responsible. The offerings of the cyber world offer parents powerful motivational carrots. Please step up and take full advantage. Happy Holidays!
Kevin Roberts is a recovering cyber addict who runs support groups to help other cyber addicts who struggle to get their lives back on track. His background is in education, and for the last thirteen years he has been an academic coach, helping different learners succeed in school and life. He is the author of Cyber Junkie: Escape the Gaming and Internet Trap (Hazelden 2010).