Canada's kids are getting fatter and developing chronic diseases. The trend implies that some parents need help to convince their children to get off their butts and play more.
The advice, however, from ParticipACTION, that no child younger than two should be spending any time at the TV, the computer or iPad, can be met by a shrug. ParticipACTION says there's no evidence that screen time holds any benefit for the very young. But what if it's just entertaining?
Toddlers tend to get overwhelmed, tired or bored quickly, so TV usually does not make for much of a babysitter. But older kids glom very quickly onto what is called "screen time." That's what ParticipAction's guidelines to limiting screen time for kids aim to curb. Surveys have tracked the rising number of hours that children are sitting in front of computers, playing games or chatting with friends. Research into the effect of being sedentary on weight and health is mixed. Studies have shown, for example, it is not the idleness but what is eaten while at the computer that affects weight. Physical activity, though, is just good for health.
ParticipACTION's guidelines get overly prescriptive at some points: "Make screen time active time; challenge the family to see who can do the most push-ups, jumping jacks or leg lifts during commercial breaks." But they stress the useful observation that parents are role models; what they do influences their children's lifestyles.
Wrestling kids away from the computer can be like declaring civil war in the home. Rising obesity rates among the very young shows that kids still need to know valuable lessons about limits. And getting your own butt off the couch can teach them lessons that pay off through the ages.