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From pixels to playgrounds: the urgent need for balance in our children’s digital lives
Fri, 2nd Feb 2024

In an era of rapid digitalisation, it's easy to let screens become the dominant force in our children’s lives. The glow of tablets, computers, and smartphones is ubiquitous, capturing our attention and that of our kids. While these devices undeniably offer significant advantages, especially in the realm of education and connectivity, it's crucial for the overall well-being of our children to create an environment that encourages exploration, movement, and immersion in the world outside of these screens.

One cannot deny the growing concern over the implications of excessive screen time. Recent data released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare is alarming – 63.4% of adults and 24% of children in Australia are classified as overweight or obese. Moreover, the World Obesity Federation forecasts that by 2035, over half of the global population will be overweight or obese. There’s a growing consensus in the scientific community that there's a link between the sedentary nature of screen time and these health trends.

Of course, it would be naive to lay the blame solely on technology. Multiple factors contribute to these health issues. However, it's undeniable that hours spent stationary in front of a screen do not support an active lifestyle. If children are to grow up understanding the importance of physical activity and the joys of real-world exploration, we need to actively create environments that encourage such behaviours.

Engaging in sports and outdoor activities serves as both a counter to inactivity and a pathway to comprehensive growth. The World Health Organisation recommends that children of primary school age should participate in a minimum of 60 minutes of moderate-to-intense physical movement each day. Through sports, kids challenge their motor skills, understand the essence of teamwork, and revel in the thrill of achievement. Whether it's scoring a goal in soccer, hitting a home run in T-Ball or sinking a putt in golf, these activities provide children with multifaceted benefits. Beyond just physical prowess, children also cultivate essential life skills such as problem-solving, resilience, and communication.

Additionally, human connections are foundational to our social fabric. Face-to-face interactions teach children essential skills such as empathy, cooperation, and the nuances of verbal and non-verbal communication. By playing and learning with their peers outside of a digital context, kids develop interpersonal skills that are vital for their personal and professional lives in the future.

While technology indeed offers invaluable resources, moderation and balance are key. It's essential to combine the digital with the tactile, blending the lessons from both to provide a well-rounded education and upbringing. 

Parents, teachers, and community leaders can play pivotal roles in this endeavour:

  • Limit Screen Time: Ensure kids have designated screen-free times, promoting other activities instead.
  • Promote Outdoor Activities: Regularly organise and participate in outdoor events like nature walks, picnics, or community sports days.
  • Incorporate Physical Education: Schools should place emphasis on physical education, ensuring it is as much a priority as academic subjects.
  • Celebrate Achievements: Recognise and celebrate achievements in sports and outdoor activities, making kids feel proud of their efforts.

In essence, our primary school children are at an age where habits formed can last a lifetime. Let’s ensure that along with the benefits of technology, they also embrace the joys and lessons of the world beyond screens.