Since 1976

Limit Screen Time for Better Fitness

I was watching one of my black belts teach our “Little Dragons” class the other Saturday morning and for some reason the thought occurred to me that these kids were gaining so many more benefits from our class than they would have from watching Saturday cartoons or glued to their smartphones.
Not to rail against TV or social media, but there are frightening statistics linking bad stuff in youngsters with too much screen time (the average kid spends way more time on their phones or in front of the television than he or she spends in school).
It has been well documented that too much TV results in overweight children (and adults). An article in the Lancet medical journal says kids who watch more than two hours of TV a day are more likely to be less physically fit, have higher cholesterol and be overweight by the time they are in their mid-twenties. The UK Royal Society for Public Health just published a study showing that heavy use of social media by pre-teens and teens leads to increased feelings of anxiety, poor body image and loneliness.
Millions are spent on tens of thousands of TV ads directly aimed at kids. Sugary snacks and fast food are only the tip of the iceberg. Did you think about the fact that little kids see almost two thousand commercials for alcohol every year? The late Jhoon Rhee used to say that we cannot expect our children to listen to our lectures about staying away from harmful substances when they see adults engaging in such behavior repeatedly.
Too much TV and social media time is linked to attention deficit disorder, poor grades and even sleep problems. Creativity is hindered by too much TV. Sight and hearing development can be affected in toddlers who are set in front of the television as “baby sitters.”
Preschool children who were exposed to cartoon violence expressed an almost immediate aggressive attitude towards other little kids. Research has shown that watching just an hour of TV a day makes teenagers more than four times as likely to commit acts of violence than teenagers who watch less than an hour a day. It is undisputed that repeated exposure to TV violence makes kids less sensitive toward the effects of violent acts and reduces their sympathy towards victims.
The hours spent looking at the big (or little) screen takes away from participation in music, art, reading and martial arts training. What to do? As a parent and as a physical fitness instructor you should be in favor of limiting screen time for kids. Maybe you can set up a schedule where children practice their martial arts for 30 minutes to “earn” an hour of a certain TV show (a good one for their age range). All TVs built since the year 2000 have a V-chip that allows parents to screen out violent shows.
Talk about the benefits of homework in your karate classes. You might even assign reading to your students (there are several good martial arts books for kids). And be a good example yourself. I know your students don’t go home with you but your own kids will benefit from more time with them and less with “Survior.”