At any given time, in any given place I am asked very interesting and thought provoking questions about children’ s health and fitness as well as parent’s fitness concerns. I will address a particularly concerning issue in this segment. I do encourage people to write in with their own concerns or questions. Often times the solutions can be easily attained.
As a professional ski instructor, I recently worked with a normal, helathy 8 year old girl. The lesson was particularly challenging and to make matters worse this youngster lacked the physical strength to push herself up off the ground once she fell. She fatigued very quickly and before the hour was complete, she was exhausted. Surprised? Don’t kids have endless energy? Isn’t this highly unusual? ?What can I do for her so she can learn to do this?? These were questions her mother asked of me.
After an interview with the mother and daughter, I made the following recommendations:
Get her away from the TV. Mom was too busy to spend time with her after her schooling, so the TV became a source of entertainment for this child – the only source besides the computer. Get her off the computer and get her outside. If she has no one to play with, take her outside yourself and go for a walk, a bike ride, roller-blading or roller skating; if it’s winter time, learn to snow shoe or cross country ski (It will benefit you as well, Mom). Jump rope with her or just swing the end of the rope for her. Throw a ball back and forth for a while. Shoot some hoops. Take advantage of a YMCA nearby and join swim programs. What she needs more than anything is to use her large muscle groups both upper and lower body. Enjoy spending time with her just talking and listening. Homeschoolers spend much time teaching, but do we spend enough relaxed fun time with our children? Get to know your child and build a friendship.
You might think this is an unusual situation, but unfortunately I am seeing more and more young people so de-conditioned they are unable to learn new things because of lack of endurance, coordination or muscle strength. These skills go hand in hand with an effective education.
A counter-effective approach is allowing children to use the computer for hours on end. Our over-computerized children are not learning how to interact well with people, are not able to create fun on their own using their imagination without some machine for stimulation, and in the meantime, their physical condition is deteriorating - a condition that is epidemic in this country - American children are in the worst physical condition than they have ever been.
Parents, beware!! Children need creative physical activity and interactiion with you and other children. The computer is becoming a tool for living life vicariously through a box. Children are not being challenged physically, mentally or emotionally to overcome obstacles and challenges the way our body and mind has been designed. Many of the children I see have nothing more to talk about than the latest computer game or web site. They have no other interests outside the computer and computer games. They are never placed in situation where they are dealing with real life situations. (As they grow into young adults, researchers are seeing a strong fear of failure which prohibits these young people from experiencing new situations and challenges thus leading to a stagnation in life). Our we preparing our children and young people for life?? The real world requires much more than looking at a picture all day and pushing buttons. Even the communication performed via the computer is void of personal eye contact, emotional interaction, body language and visual and audible feedback. The computer is NOT interactive. It is not human.
Don’t get me wrong. The computer does have value. But let’s not allow it to invade our lives to the point that it destroys lives in the long term. Just as in everything, moderation is the key. Don’t allow it to replace a healthy lifestyle. Kids must and need to be active, this prepares them for the physical, mental and emotional challenges that face them in life. I see the computer (and television) asrobbing them of those vital tools.
My opinions are based on years of working with children in both the physical and educational arena. I see warning signs of great concern all around. Just think about the amount of time you and your children spend on the computer or in front of the TV on a given day. Calculate the time for the entire week. Then you be the judge as to whether it is in fact time well spent or time robbed from doing activities as a family, as kids, or just natural imagination time or reading time in a good book. I am not condemning modern technology, I am simply stating a concern and issuing a challenge. The computer age has its strengths, but be ware that its strength does not capitalize on our weakness.
Heidi Sampson is a homeschooling mother of three children ages 7-15. She is a Physical Fitness Specialist and Personal Trainer. She and her oldest son are Professional Ski and Snowboard Instructors. She is the author and developer of FUN O FIT?! a unique family fitness program. She has also developed various fitness programs for all ages. She has specialized in children s fitness development. Heidi also works with teenage girls through a teen ministry and along with her husband Bob, they head up a Young Adults Ministry.