Digital Demise

I’ve always been an advocate for movement and there are plenty of studies that show movement actually improves cognitive functions. I know I was quite the kinetic kid and if I didn’t get my daily dose of at least 3 hours of running around in my youth, I would be worse than an adult that woke up late, didn’t have their cup of coffee, lost their keys, found them in the car and then hit traffic right when they realized that their presentation was back home. In a nutshell, I was a young boy.

Today, the average school age child gets 26 minutes of recess per day due to curriculum changes….and that includes lunchtime. Kids spend approximately 72% of their time on core curriculum work during a 30 hour school week. That’s 21.6 hours in a chair a week. Meanwhile, the average worker is productive for under 3 hours a day. We expect school age children to sit in a chair for over an hour longer than the average paid adult can be productive in a longer day. We also spend over 400 minutes a day in front of some type of screen (TV, laptop/PC, phone, tablet). Yes, that means our children too! The digital age has not only made it easier to consume goods and services, but it’s turned us into addicts, gobbling up enormous quantities of ‘information’ while we sit like statues in front of screens.

Combined this is over 10 hours a day sitting in front of a screen or a teacher and only 26 minutes of free movement. School age kids should get an average of 10 hours of sleep, so there’s not much time left for eating 3 meals and moving from place to place, is there?

How do we expect children to be smarter and pay closer attention if they ‘have the wiggles’ or ‘the giggles’, because they are being asked to suppress their urge (biological need) to move? How do we expect children to be behave when they’re not getting enough sleep, because they’re over stimulated by the media they consume? How do we expect kids to be polite, patient and respectful of others when they’re overtaxed mentally and undernourished physically?

Meanwhile, we let prisoners out for an hour a day and feel guilty enough to create a whole new industry called ‘dog walking’ when our pooch is all alone for 3 hours, but we give grade school kids under 30 minutes of recess. So what do we do?

We can hack away at the screen time. Yes, I know that everything has gone mobile and digital, and that this is how children of the future will get ahead, but they’ll still need human attributes too. They’ll need discipline, awareness and organization in order to prioritize their tasks. They’ll need socialization skills, because although they may have fewer opportunities for ‘face time’, it will be that much more important to successfully navigate those interactions. Because of this more sedentary lifestyle that children are being born into, they will need the will and discipline to get up and move in order to improve circulation, reduce stress and maintain their health.

We can reclaim gym and recess. It is my opinion that more physical movement could actually make a class run more efficiently and reduce disciplinary disruptions. Reducing class time and re-balancing the time spent between the classroom and the gymnasium or playground could actually improve scores and kids’ overall health and general well being. According to another study, “Only 4 percent of elementary schools, 8 percent of middle and junior high schools, and 2 percent of high schools provide daily physical education.” And what will we get in return for sending our kids back outside or back into the gymnasium according to this study?

  • Less bullying
  • Increased feelings of safety
  • More physical activity
  • Better concentration

Having taught children for 2 decades, this has always been my contention, but now I have the studies to back it up and so do you. How will you use this information to improve your child’s life?

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