The 2016 Participation report card that aims at getting parents and health care providers to factor in sleep to keep children and young adults healthy, scored the children of Canada an F in sedentary behaviour. The report states that only less than a quarter of 5 to 16 year olds meet the recommendation of recreational screen time of no more than 2 hours a day. More than 31 percent of school going and 26 percent of adolescents were found to be sleep deprived.
Could anyone guess the reason for this? It is quite obvious; the new generation kids have fundamentally become couch potatoes. Kids are predominantly stuck before gadget screens, be it their smart phones, PSB, tablets, laptops or even televisions. The studies, which included data from multiple sources, found that high school students spend an average of 8.2 hours in front of screen based sedentary activities each day.
How Children are Being Affected
The sedentary lifestyle today poses great health concerns. It is reported that high levels of sedentary behaviour in active children may counteract some of the health benefits of that physical activity. The risk of just sitting the whole day is in itself huge. It was also found that school going children spending a huge portion of their day before computer or television screens are also likely to have poor motor coordination compared to more active children.
The study by Participation also found that these children are not able to sleep even though they feel tired and sleepy throughout the day. It is to believe that these long hours are actually depriving them of their sleep.
Dr. Shelly Weiss, a neurologist specialising in paediatric sleep disorders explains the situation. ” Daytime behaviour, sleep, fatigue are interrelated. Sleep is important for memory, learning, behaviour and attention in children and young people. When adults and children are more active in day, they sleep better at night.” Sadly, what is happening at present is different. The children remain physically inactive through the day, it maybe just for an hour or so that they play or be physically active.
Also, being sedentary or still throughout the day could also make children overweight and obese. It becomes more likely for such children to much on unhealthy foods with high sugar, salt or fat content during their inactive times.
Much Needed Change
It is known that healthy lifestyle initiatives aiming to eradicate this sedentary behaviour will have great impact on children’s health. The problem comes when your active to inactive ratio is in total imbalance. Being active for a little while and then being inactive for the rest of the day is effecting the children’s sleep and health.
Katya Herman, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Kinesiology and Health Studies at the University of Regina says, “If you get your 30 minutes per day (as an adult), as a child 60 minutes a day, you are active. But what are you doing for the other 23 hour per day?” She says today’s children are just being “Active couch potatoes”. She explains back in the days of the elder generation even if they weren’t doing those vigorous activities, they at least remained active by puttering around for most hours of a day. It becomes critical for this generation be indulge in some vigorous physical activity.
Though you may not realise it, but it is time for a wakeup call. Children and young people need to own a life outside these recreational screen activities. In fact, this is not an issue related to kids alone, it is a threat to any person having such a lifestyle. And parents need to set good examples for their children to follow. They have to take initiative to put away the screens themselves to find time for health, sleep and family as well. A healthy routine needs to be built up. Maybe, the populations needs to walk back a little and embrace the lifestyle that existed with limited use of technology and gadgets.