I’ve previously written about kids and how much they enjoy going out to play when that takes the form of brightly lit fiber optics and LEDs. One of the challenges of parenting is how to encourage, coerce or guilt your children to go out and exercise, to run around the way we used to, before there was so much access to television, tablets and smartphones.
Keeping children active is becoming increasingly difficult. Between fifth and sixth grade, a child’s activity levels can fall as much as 50 percent, as reported by researchers at the University of Georgia in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.
The same researchers found that trying to guilt children into going out to exercise doesn’t work. They found that middle-school students who felt pressured or were not in charge of their own choices were less active.
Each of us knows this challenge. We were all middle schoolers and resistant to adult suggestions across the board: our choice of friends, clothes, music, entertainment, or hairstyle. But when I was a kid, spending time being active was not one of these adult-led suggestions. I got to watch television for 30 minutes, maybe an hour. Screen time was minimal, and certainly wasn’t a phrase that we used and an activity we worried about. Going out to play, being active, participating in sports was a social, fun and available activity.
Now, encouraging children to be away from screens is a challenge. Rod Dishman, one of the lead University of Georgia researchers, asks how we should “put these children in situations where they come to value and enjoy the act of being physically active?"
I know that technology can play its part in getting children to be more active, to address the balance. It can make outdoor play, and being active, fun. Wearable technology — including fitness trackers and smart apps, make us aware of our physical condition. Technology such as our AfterDark Flag Football Kit makes a really fun and immersive experience with fiber optics and interactive LEDs. Check out our kit here.