Headline: Obesity a problem among children

Subhed: Too much time spent in front of screens

Photo: Obesity due to inactivity is becoming a serious problem among kids.

By Balwant Sanghera

Retired School Psychologist and Community Activist

Advances in technology have been both a blessing and a curse.

On the plus side, the uprising dubbed The Arab Spring in some of the Middle East countries would not have been possible without an active role played by the social media. Instant communication has connected the entire world like a global village.

Creating of instant political movements of like-minded people for a cause is another contribution of technology in general and social media in particular. Instant activism, crowd-funding and rapid connectivity are just some of the visible benefits of technological progress.

However, on the flip side, these developments have adversely affected our social relationships and the way we communicate with each other. These adverse consequences are even more pronounced in the case of our children and youth.

Marie Swingle, an EEG neurotherapist, has written a book on this subject. In an article in one of Vancouver’s daily newspapers, Swingle said technology is affecting our brains to the point that “we are all now functioning from a higher level of arousal. We are always ‘on’ – on call in all of our multiple roles (parents,workers, friends, providers, consumers, spouses, lovers etc.).

She goes on to say: “Our overconsumption of screen-based technology has a direct relationship to anxiety, depression, ADHD and other obsessive-compulsive disorders.”

When we depend too much on technology, especially screen-based technology, we lose a lot. This is more so in case of children whose brains are still developing.

Again, in  Swingle’s words: “Out of science speak, what this means is we are seeing definitive changes affecting children’s emotional patterns, their learning abilities, their thinking and processing patterns, and how they relate to other people including peers and parents alike.”

In addition to losing out on some of the above developmental processes, the children who become too dependent on screens also tend to gain excessive weight and become obese. As a result of this, obesity in children and youth has become a major concern not only in Canada but also in most of the developed countries.

Canadians in general and British Columbians in particular are finally beginning to pay the kind of attention this issue needs. It is about time for all of us to be active participants in this worthwhile process.

Incidentally, summer holidays are a great opportunity to start weaning the children away from on-screen technology and get them interested in outdoor activities.

Children are our greatest resource and asset. In this ever-changing social environment, we need to be extra careful not only about their personal safety but also about their well being, as well as physical and mental health.

Numerous studies indicate that today’s children and youth are relatively less active and more obese than those of a few years ago. A provincial health study -”How Healthy Are We?” released some time ago – came up with some glaring revelations. It found that only one third of British Colombians over the age of 12 are physically active enough to meet optimal health standards.

A child’s early years are crucial to his/her physical as well as cognitive development. In this regard, healthy and nutritious foods go a long way. Instead of junk foods, the children should be encouraged to develop habits of eating healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables etc.

Moderate physical activity is also essential for good health. Children should be encouraged to engage in some sort of safe physical activity daily rather than sitting in front of a computer playing video games. Taking children to our neighborhood parks and encouraging them to enjoy and play in green space is bound to keep them healthy and happy.

The time to start an active and healthy lifestyle is at an early age. As parents, caregivers and role models, we can do a lot more to make our younger generations active and healthy.

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