Does Technology Effect Children's Fitness and Social Abilities?

I think one phrase we seem to often hear parents saying nowadays is “back in my day” things were so different. And this especially comes in with the use of technology amongst the younger generation. This industry is fast growing and with tablets and mobile phones being so easily accessible in recent years, it’s no surprise that kids of all ages seem to be involved with the digital world. 

But how is this effecting their social and physical wellbeing?
The impact of devices and online platforms has stirred up heated debates for many years, with experts on each side of the argument stating different facts. Some say that technology causes poor communication skills and reduced physical activity, and others claiming that gadgets can help kids keep in touch with peers and boost physical fitness.

Children’s use of technology in the UK 
According to BARB — Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board — as of the end of 2017, 11.54 million households owned one television set, while 8.66 million had two, 4.11 million owned three, and 1.75 million had four. And a survey by Samsung found that UK households also have an average of 18 smart devices - including mobiles, tablets and TVs. I must admit, when I count how many devices we own in our house, I was a little shocked - 11 for us, and that doesn't include our smart watches. 

And although this data doesn’t indicate how much time parents allow their children to go on technology, it at least suggests that most kids at least have access to several devices regularly in their homes. 

For some people, this opportunity to access technology can make it easier for youngsters to opt for these activities, rather than playing sports or physical games outdoors, which could impact negatively on their physical fitness.

Can technology improve children’s social skills?
When it comes to socialising, many people advocate the use of technology. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter allow kids to maintain relationships with friends who perhaps live many miles away, while programs like Skype help teachers conduct one-to-one tuition sessions in a virtual classroom. 

And I can't really slate the use of social media at all, when I scroll it for many hours a day as part of my blog - and social life. But I think that's the thing. People think that playing games can hinder children's social skills, but playing online means that you have to talk to the other players to fulfil your objective, learning to work as a team and communicate whilst doing so. 

Research from Newcastle University found that primary school kids who consumed up to three hours of television a day grew up to be better communicators at secondary school. However, watching any more than three hours was believed to lead to poorer linguistic skills. Against, I must admit that I do have the television on a lot. We don't necessarily watch it all the time, but I like the background noise.  

And this doesn't include the use of different platforms. The advances in technology now mean that kids can consume visual content on multiple platforms, not just the TV set, which makes ensuring that children are receiving the right amount of real-life conversation more difficult.

How technology may affect children’s physical health
Only 9% of parents claim that their children (aged 5-16 years) achieve the government’s recommendation of one hour a day of physical activity. 60 minutes is reportedly the least amount of time needed to maintain good health, however, it appears that the trend for social media, video games, YouTube, Netflix and other technology may be causing a reduction in physical activities.

On the other hand, many say that tablets and online platforms in fact encourage physical activity in kids. If you check out YouTube, it is packed with tutorial videos that motivate and help kids get into and practice a particular sport, playing games and giving ideas of ways to keep active, while games like Nintendo Wii combine the virtual world with physical movement. 

How to encourage physical activity and social interaction
We’ve seen that there are pros and cons on both sides when it comes to technology’s effect on social and physical wellbeing. Fighting a battle against technology might be impossible, or not needed if you limit how much your children can access technology and make sure they spend time moving and outdoors. 

Here are some tips on getting children engaging in physical activities to boost their fitness and social skills:

* Ask your kids not to use phones or tablets at the table during mealtimes, so that you can make time for conversation.

* Take your children, and maybe their friends, out somewhere where they can be active. Maybe swimming, bowling or to a soft-play venue once every few weeks.

* Look through the App Store on your child’s phone or tablet together to find apps that encourage physical activity so that they can use the technolody to help them be more active. 

* Walk or cycle to school together. This is something we do every day as I find walking also wakes them up properly on the morning. 

* Organise a day of fun – such as a family day out in Manchester at Chill Factore’s indoor ski slope.

* Check out what after school clubs your child’s school offers and get them involved. This could be sport-based or not, as long as it gets them off their tablets and socialising and doing something they like. 

Although technology can appear to negatively impact a children’s social and physical health at times, it can also clearly be a support. These devices are fine if not overused, so, as a parent, you should limit your child’s time and incorporate some of the above tips into your family life.

1 comment:

  1. It all comes down to how you use it - i cringe sometimes at the lack of social skills of some CHILDREN