Responsible for the school run? Two questions:
How do you get there and back?
What do you do while waiting for the children to go in and come out again?
There’s a reasonable chance that the respective answers to these questions are ‘in the car’ and ‘I look at something or other on a smartphone’.
Correct? You’re far from alone in this.
Parents and adults are busier than ever before, we understand this better than most, and driving to and from school and using that precious time in the playground to check messages and answer emails can be invaluable in keeping one’s head above water.
Let’s be honest, this is a trap that countless adults fall into and, truth be told, it all seems rather harmless.
The effect on our children, however?
This cannot be underestimated.
Research published in recent days has suggested that, when it comes to physical activity, children in the UK enter a ‘tragic decline’ from just seven-years-old.
It has long been believed that children begin to become less active during puberty, but so pervasive have computers, video games, tablets and smartphones become in modern life, the decline has been found to start long before adolescence.
Researchers have described a state of ‘digital dependence’ and outlined the need for a ‘cultural shift’ to tackle an issue dubbed ‘society’s silent killer’.
‘It’s creeping up on our children before they’ve even left the playground,’ said Jack Shakespeare from ukactive Kids in response to the research, carried out at Strathclyde University, which has been published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
Pupils being driven to school in greater numbers, the study’s authors suggest, has played a significant role in children’s lives becoming more sedentary, which brings us back to the questions posed above.
To get our children to walk a little more is a small change that could make a big difference. It’s something that, we suspect, might prove somewhat easier than tackling that aforementioned ‘digital dependence’.
Screentime is a big issue (and a particular bugbear here) and, while we can all impose rules and limits in an attempt to manage children’s usage, we mustn’t overlook our own behaviour.
Children learn from adults, let’s not forget.
That significant numbers tend to spend their time in the playground looking at their phones, whether to check for messages, answer emails (or do something else altogether), doesn’t set the best example.
This has become such an issue that at one school in Middlesbrough, parents and adults have been asked to stop using their phones in the playground.
There are signs at the school gates that read ‘Greet your child with a smile, not a mobile’ and feature a figure, using a phone, in a red circle with a line drawn through it.
It’s a small step, granted.
But if we expect our children to spend less time on their devices, we must show them the correct path to follow and spend less time on our own.
For their physical health – as that ‘digital dependence’ is making children less active – but also for their mental health and development, with researchers warning last year that parents’ immersion in their smartphones can leave children lacking in basic social skills.
This brings us back to the beginning and the question posed above.
Responsible for the school run?
Take our advice and have a think about how YOU can do things differently.