With the first signs of Spring in the air (call me an optimist) and the better weather and increased daylight hours that will come with it, now is a good time to look at the expectations around how much physical activity the young people in our care are receiving. We know that children and adolescents in Australia are spending less time outside and are doing less exercise. We also know that the uptake of technology has had a significant impact on this—screen time has replaced “green time”.
Research shows that a moderate amount of screen time in all its formats (gaming, social media, etc) may in fact have a positive effect on wellbeing; however, there is no evidence to support the notion that screens are making kids (or adults) any “happier”. The other concern is that most research strongly indicates that young people are not using screens at a moderate level, rather, they are greatly exceeding all recommendations at all age levels. Too much time on screens is associated with reduced cognitive skills, reduced physical health, reduced social wellbeing (through poorer relationships and lowered emotional intelligence) and a decrease in wellbeing. Our experiences here at SFX certainly reflect these findings.
Fortunately, the coming weeks are a great time to initiate change with your own children. “Green time”, as time outside is being coined, is admittedly easier to do when there is more daylight available and the weather is warmer. So how do you get started?
- It does not have to be structured activity, but that may be helpful. Unstructured play encourages kids to use their imaginations, fostering creativity, but sometimes a stimulus such as inviting a friend over or going for a family bush walk can have obvious benefits.
- As with most measures aimed at helping your children, a conversation about why you are asking them to put their devices away and spend time outside is a good idea. Young people tend to respond better if concerns for their wellbeing are explained to them.
- Finally, consider your own habits and seek to set a good example. It may be difficult to convince your kids that the outdoors is good for them if you do not spend time outside yourself and particularly if your own screen habits need reviewing.
Fortunately, we have some great resources on hand to help you to navigate this tricky area of parenting. School TV, which SFX subscribes to and is available via this link has some excellent, short videos from experts such as Dr Michael Carr-Greg and others that provide information and strategies to get your kids off screens and outside. I cannot recommend this resource highly enough and I would love to hear feedback about any of the clips you may view.
As always, if you have concerns, please contact your child’s Pastoral Leader or Year Coordinator.
Assistant Principal – Student Wellbeing