By Dr Tejal Kanwar
The impact of digitization on children’s health is becoming too severe to ignore. The children of today are the future of our nation, and their lack of adequate physical activity demands urgent attention. According to World Health Organization, children and youth aged 5 to 17 years should accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity daily, with vigorous-intensity activities at least thrice a week. However, this requirement has taken a backseat with kids today. Students are thoroughly involved in school, tuitions, homework, and social media which has shrunk their appetite for outdoor play.
Indian children are increasingly spending more time glued to smartphones and tablets rather than flocking towards playgrounds. This restricts children’s muscle and bone strength development while mobile phone usage puts them at potential risk of irreversible eye damage as well.
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According to Nischint, a parental control and monitoring app for children, the average time spent per child aged 5 to 17 on social media platforms such as WhatsApp, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat is 3.4 hours. This finding dates back to 2015, and with increased data affordability, OTT platforms for video consumption and smarter phones this number is speculated to have crossed the 4-hour mark today, if not more. This has already resulted in soft bones, weak muscles, bad posture, incorrect running gait, Back pain, joint problems and more.
It becomes imperative for parents to realize the harmful effects of this form of stagnation, which has inevitably led to child obesity among 14.4 million children in the country, second highest in the world. This can cause severe problems in the future such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer, and other life-threatening conditions.
Even School Athletes are not getting sufficient strengthening exercises. If a kid is sitting in class for hours, then in front of a screen, then you throw the kid to play a soccer match, the kid will not have the stamina because he/she has not been conditioned and will also end up with injuries.
Similar to reading and math, children need to be physically literate too, learning a vocabulary of movement and fundamental fitness skills. Adequate physical exercise can not only strengthen bones, muscles, and joints that are vital for healthy growth and development but also facilitate better mental health through enhanced social interaction, self-esteem and focus.
Hence, introducing functional fitness early on in kids can help children learn new skills through team-based activities such as problem solving, leadership, socialization, personal awareness, and time management among others.
According to a McKinsey Global Report 2017, 60 million to 375 million individuals around the world may need to transition to new occupational categories in 2030. The report added that work activities will require more application of expertise, interaction, and management as well as social and emotional skills, and high-level logical reasoning. In light of this, children who engage in physical team-based exercises will be able to adapt to future workforce environments better than others, and thereby contribute more to the country’s economy with better mental as well as physical capabilities.
Call – to – Action
The onus lies on parents and schools to incorporate a structured fitness program, one that engages the kid in such a manner that makes them feel that they were not being trained. Having realistic goals and manageable processes are crucial, introducing kids to age appropriate group play methods that keep them motivated.
The children of today are the leaders of tomorrow and the right program can help in overall mental, physical, and skill development leading to a nation of fit citizens.
(The author is the CEO and co-founder of Kleinetics, an exuberant physical fitness-group play method enterprise focussed on kids. Views expressed are her own.)