Put away your child’s electronics for spring break

As Spring Break begins, many kids will be at home looking for fun things to do. Unfortunately, this also means many children will be spending their days on the computer or watching TV.

Watching children play together is becoming mildly terrifying. The imaginative games of my childhood seem to be replaced with bonding over video games. Teenagers are glued to their phones, often preferring to text or snapchat instead of going out to the mall with friends. This lack of real life interaction is causing more depression in teens and less connectivity between families. This is dangerous for our society.

Because children are often on electronics, their face-to-face interactions with other kids and adults are reportedly decreasing.  Many kids are also overstimulated by electronics and increased Attention Deficit Disorder is becoming prevalent in young Canadians. Parents that avoid dealing with their kids and stick them in front of the leap pad are enriching the addiction causing exercise rates and outdoor play to plummet.

A 2014 study by the University of California showed children with high access to electronics were unable to accurately recognize non-verbal body language as effectively as children with more limited use of technology. The research compared a group of 51 children that were at a summer camp for five days without technology to a control group of children that had access to technology during the same time. Both groups were tested at the conclusion of the camp and the study concluded that children who had no access to technology for the week were able to recognize body language cues 50 per cent better than children in the control group.

Children in North America over the age of eight spend over seven and a half hours a day looking at a screen. The study also reported teenagers ages 12 to 17 use phones to text message more than face-to-face socializing.

Overstimulation is also becoming more prevalent in kids and youth, according to a study put out by the public school board of British Columbia, with one in 20 children suffering from Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). Over-stimulation to technology in infants can cause SPD and often leads to ADHD, as well as anxiety due to interrupted development of processing abilities in the prefrontal cortex at a young age.

A report card released in 2015 by the Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Health Institute calculates startling statistics concerning children and physical exercise in Canada. Seventy per cent of children ages three to four are getting the recommended 180 minutes of daily activity compared to children ages five to 11, with only 14 per cent of children getting 60 minutes of daily exercise. Only five per cent of teenagers ages 12 to 17 meet the guidelines.

This spring break, get your kids outside to play and have fun! By putting the electronics away and inspiring children and youth to play outside, you can kickstart a better lifestyle that involves less technology. A few ideas include going on a hike as family, playing a game of basketball, or going for a bike ride. I challenge you to actually bond with your family — even if it seems forced to begin with — just to see how your child reacts to the non-screen-related activities. Putting away the computer for a week may just be what you all need!