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How To Cure Your Kids’ Gaming Addiction (And Get Them To Play Outside!)
It’s common today for children to spend too much time indoors playing video games, browsing the internet or chatting with their friends over social media. But the effects of not spending enough time outdoors can be quite detrimental to children, setting them up for a pattern of unhealthy living than can last well into adulthood, and for health problems later in life. In this guide, we’ll explain why it’s so dangerous for children to be living an overly sedentary lifestyle, and how you can help change this behavior early on and get them to spend more time outside.
The facts on children spending time indoors and health risks
A recent British survey of parents with children between the ages of 4 and 14 revealed that at the time of the research (2016), children were spending only around 4 hours a week playing outside. Their parents had spent a little over 8 hours a week outside when they were children. Other developed countries have similar data. What’s going on here?
A lot of it has to do with the fact that there are so many more options for how children can spend time and entertain themselves nowadays. Most of these options, unfortunately, are centered around indoor electronic distractions.
The sedentary lifestyle can have a plethora of destructive health effects on children’s bodies. When combined with sugary diets, which are all too common these days, it can lead to a significantly increased risk of childhood obesity, which is on the rise. This sets kids up for an increased risk later in life for hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease and diabetes.
Much of the time children spend indoors is spent looking at electronic screens (especially smartphones, laptops and various handheld devices). Many studies have indicated that spending too much time looking at electronic screens only a few inches away has led to an alarming increase in myopia (nearsightedness) among children and young adults. These effects are most pronounced in East Asian countries. One study in South Korea found that an incredible 90 percent of children had some degree of nearsightedness. Subsequent research found that this was directly tied to reduced exposure to sunlight, which is of course linked to not spending enough time outdoors.
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How to get your kids to spend more time outside
There are plenty of simple things that can get your children outside. Going for a walk or a hike is one of the best ways to do it. Make a family outing out of it, and have a picnic, too. You can take different approaches depending on the children’s age. In addition to getting kids to physically engage with the outdoors, use the opportunity to engage their minds as well. Teach them about nature, animals and plants. It’s quite likely they’ll develop an interest in it, and will want to spend more time outdoors exploring for themselves.
For children under the age of 12, encourage them to try lots of different things. Ultimate Frisbee, tag, hide and seek and various types of sports and martial arts are all good options. Odds are, they’ll find one that really clicks with them, and they’ll want to continue it. Once they’re past the age of 12, they’ll probably find at least once physical activity they enjoy most and can focus on. This will help them stay in shape and avoid the health problems listed above, and help them develop self-confidence and healthy self-esteem.
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Of course, let’s remember something important: the best way to get children to do what’s in their best interest is to set a good example yourself. Much research has shown that children of physically active parents who spend time outdoors are much more likely to be fit and healthy themselves. As with so many things, you have to lead by example.
Try these approaches out for yourself. It will be a major step toward setting your children up for a long and healthy life.