Limited screen time, healthy lifestyle, and adequate physical activity a must for children

11:12 am Health Care, Heart Care Foundation of India, Medicine

Parents must model healthy behavior for kids

New Delhi, 26 April 2019: The United Nations on Wednesday released its first-ever recommendations on physical activity for children under five, with disputed advice on subjects ranging from screen time to “tummy time”. The guidelines from the WHO may read to some parents like common-sense practices, including not exposing babies under one-year-old to screens. With obesity posing a rising public health threat and 80% of adolescents “not sufficiently physically active,” WHO said it was time to outline best practices for children under five.

For infants under one, the WHO recommends at least 30 minutes of physically activity a day, including prone position — or tummy time — for those not yet mobile. For children between one and two years old, WHO recommends three hours of physical activity each day, with no more than an hour of “sedentary screen time” and at least 11 hours of sleep.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee, Dr KK Aggarwal, President, HCFI, said, “Childhood obesity is a reality today with two of the biggest contributing factors being imbalanced diet and sedentary lifestyle. More than 30% people of the society including children have potbelly abdominal obesity. Most children eat out at least once or twice a week and have an electronic device at hand while eating. While there is awareness among parents on the situation, not much is being done to counter the problem. Elders should model the behavior they want children to follow and therefore, the changes begin with them. A healthy childhood is the only foundation for a healthy life ahead.”

Screen-based media can influence children and their behaviour; for example, children can copy or be influenced by negative behaviour, sterotypical representations of gender, violent imagery or coarse language they see in advertising and other media.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, who is also the Group Editor-in-Chief of IJCP, said, “Having access to so many different streams of information through gadgets has been found to decrease the brain’s grey matter density, which is responsible for cognition and emotional control. In this digital era, the key to good health should be moderation i.e. moderate use of technology. Most of us have become slaves to devices that were really meant to free us and give us more time to experience life and be with people. And we are leading our children in the same path as well.”

Some tips from HCFI

  • Interact with them: Instead of giving them a phone to keep them busy, spend some time interacting with them and talking to them. This will eliminate the need for a device.
  • Put computers or TVs in shared spaces: This way it will be easier to keep track of their usage and limit screen time.
  • Opt for a tech-free time: Ensure devoting few hours in a day to zero screen time for the entire household.
  • Watch your habits: If, as parents, you devote a lot of time to mobiles and computers, children are naturally inclined to follow suit. Be a positive role model for them.
  • Eat together: Meal times should be free from screens and a time for the family to sit together and eat. Make this a practice.
  • Indulge in physical activity: Ensure that the children spend sufficient time in outdoor activities. This will make them less prone to using Smartphone.

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