Is too much screen time affecting your kid’s health and kitchen?
In the recent times, the term ‘screen time’ has become popular among parents. It is defined as the time spent in front of a screen such as television, tablets, phone and other electronic gadgets.
With the rates of childhood obesity, juvenile hypertension and other childhood diseases reaching a high, parents of this generation need to ask themselves the question, ‘What is the reason behind these?’
There are three critical factors that shape a child’s health
- Activity levels
How could something as simple as watching Television, tablets and phone interfere with these critical factors mentioned above?
Nutrition not only implies eating healthy food, but also eating it in the right proportion. Children are intuitive eaters, meaning they tend to be more in touch with their body and hunger cues compared to adults. However, they lose this ability, to know how much should they eat when they are distracted with devices or when their plate is filled with processed food.
There was a time when parents or grandparents used to carry the child and tell them stories and play with them while feeding them. Today’s harsh reality is that we see parents feeding their children while the latter are watching television/tablet/phone. In order to ensure their children eat faster and with minimum fuss, parents allow them to watch cartoons or play games on television and hand-held devices. As children don’t realise what and how much they eat, they are more likely to have digestive and metabolic problems by their early teens.
With food industry and media targeting parents and children with their well-planned advertising campaigns, consuming food marketed by them as healthy is very common. Further, with celebrities endorsing such products it makes the children happy and proud to consume these. It doesn’t take much effort to fill children’s lunch/snack box with the latest products launched in the market as it’s easy and less time-consuming. While we fill our kitchen shelves, with products of Standard American Diet (SAD) we should ask ourselves the question: Is there anything unhealthy/bad about these?
Most of these products contain hydrogenated fat (they type that clogs the arteries), artificial flavours and colours, thickening agents and preservatives. These are known carcinogens and harmful to the body’s metabolism and are linked to issues such as ADHD, Autism, and depression. Apart from these, they also contain other toxic chemicals, MSG(mono sodium glutamate) and high amounts of sugar & salt, to increase the shelf life and it’s taste.
Dr. David Kessler in his book, ‘The end of overeating’ says that consuming foods with high amounts of sugar and salt causes a change in the taste buds and brain’s chemistry. Subsequently, naturally sweet /normal home food will not please the tongue. This explains why children who are exposed to such junk food want to snack only on those , and never try real fruits, vegetables or fresh homemade food.
Pro Tip – In order to ensure your children eat right, be the change and the role model. When parents start eating healthy and fresh food, it will inspire and motivate the younger ones to try those. Involve the younger ones in grocery shopping , cooking and avoid bribing them with gadgets or food.
It is recommended that children up to the age of 21 should have physical activity of 60-90 minutes per day. With the ever-increasing pressure and study load from our education system, children don’t get enough time to play outside. Moreover, with whatever little time is left for play, children are getting addicted to gadgets and sit on the playground playing video games, watching videos or using social networking sites. As their device usage increases, their activity, social interaction, and attention span reduces considerably.
Little do we realise the effect of devices on their brain and behaviour. Several studies have already pointed out that there is a delay in cognitive development in children who are exposed to too much electronic media. Additionally, since their skull is not as hard as that of adults, the radiations from mobile/tablet/gadgets can easily penetrate their skull and cause damages in their brain.
Pro Tip – Give them your attention and not a gadget. Let children play real games and not video games. This will not only improve their fitness, immunity, attention span and social skills, but will also ensure their brain develops faster.
Both the issues detailed above creates a third issue. The chemicals and sugar in the junk food keeps the brain excited and lack of physical activity compounds it by not making the body tired enough to sleep. As a result, children don’t sleep on time, which disrupts their sleep cycle. Parents again give children gadgets or turn on television to calm them down or make them sleep. Though this sounds like a great idea, it only does the opposite.
The light emitted by these devices are largely from blue light spectrum which is outside human visibility spectrum. The blue light doesn’t let pineal gland secrete the sleep hormone – melatonin and interferes with the circadian rhythm and sleep cycle. Good quality sleep is a non-negotiable factor for immunity, physical and cognitive growth in children.
Pro Tip – Create a healthy sleep routine and stick to it. Avoid gadgets an hour before bed time and remove the television from the bedroom. Use this time to connect with family. Either coach your child to sleep by themselves or sing lullabies & read stories to them to make them sleep.
As parents earn more, and spend less time with the children, they compensate it with things like processed food, gadgets, and other indoor game consoles. Though these things keep children engaged, we often forget their real need and negative effect of these conveniences.
Word of advice
- The family that cooks and eats together, stays together.
- Educate your child on better food choices so they don’t get swayed by advertisements.
- Real games and physical activity for about 60-90 minutes a day.
- Give them your time, love and attention, not gadgets
- No gadgets an hour before bed.
One of the best ways to show care and love to your children is to make fresh homemade food and spend quality time with them. This will improve their immunity, metabolism and mental health which will equip them to be fit and sound for a whole life.
This article was originally written for the online magazine ‘Complete wellbeing’.
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