Kids are getting fatter and slower.
Teachers know it, parents know it, and they know it.
But, did you know it's hurting them more than just physically? Kids are suffering mentally and emotionally from being less active. And it's showing up in ways many are not prepared for.
Apps & Shows Replacing Play Time & Interaction
The pandemic caused a lot more problems than just illness. One of the most common complaints parents have about their kids doing part of their schooling at home as schools remain closed is that they can't get them out of bed.
When given a choice, many choose to lounge around in bed all day. It makes sense – it's comfortable, safe, and they can sleep whenever they want.
But, it's not healthy.
Apps, Zoom, videos and TV shows, and social media are replacing face-to-face conversations.
For years, teachers and psychologists have been noting social skills are declining amongst kids as they use text messages and apps to communicate more than they do face to face. Schools have pointed out group activities and clubs show a decline in attendance.
Then the pandemic forced everything to shut down and made it worse.
Various TicToks and Twitch videos have kids bragging about how many days it's been since they talk to one of their friends in person. It's almost a contest to see how long they can go without positive social interaction.
It's no wonder nearly 70% of all children now experience some sort of anxiety or depression.
How Inactivity and Not Moving Hurts Kids' Bodies
This goes way beyond social interaction. Kids have a lot of energy, and if they don't have ways of burning off that energy, that energy can get turned on themselves.
Obesity, type 2 diabetes, and high cholesterol have skyrocketed in teenagers over the past year.
Children with attention issues (ADHD, etc) find those issues getting worse.
Without a way to physically burn off energy, the body either stores the extra as fat or causes the body to endlessly fidget.
What Not Running Around Is Doing To Kids' Minds
The main culprit for what's going on in our kids' minds is sugar. Almost all processed food has abundant extra sugars, far more than anyone needs during the day. On top of that, kids tend to gravitate towards sweeter foods.
Parents often indulge their kids, especially during times of stress. But, if your kids are not running around, it can hurt them.
First, the sugar is overstimulating their body, especially the pancreas. The pancreas produces insulin. The excess of both of these triggers the body into insulin resistance, causing their blood sugars to skyrocket. These extra blood sugars cause problems.
The extra sugar destroys the myelin sheath that protects nerves throughout the body. In the brain, it can cause memory disorders, attention problems, depression, and impaired learning. Throughout the rest of the body, it can cause neuropathy, obesity, and unidentified pain.
Because of the extra insulin in the body, that insulin affects the rest of the hormones. During puberty, hormones go wild, to begin with, and adding the disruption of sugar causes even more problems.
Insulin stimulates the release of dopamine, giving kids a rush remarkably similar to heroin. Then, when insulin levels drop, so does dopamine. To get this rush back and feel good, kids go after more sugar. In a noticeably short time, in a matter of weeks, this can form an addiction. Once the addiction to sugar forms, it can alter dopamine production for years, sending children into a depressive cycle many cannot get out of on their own.
How To Get Your Kids Out And Running Around Again
But, there is a way out.
One of the first things to realize is that you are the parents, and it's your job to raise your children to be healthy.
A schedule of activities can help your children understand what they need to do as far as chores, responsibilities, activities, and schoolwork. A schedule does not have to time things out, just list the activities that need to be done. Many children respond very well to a plan.
Limit electronics and screen time. Free use of social media is not healthy and against most social media requirements. Besides homework, you can restrict electronics from the bedroom, letting that be a haven for peace and quiet.
Chores! Your children probably are more mature than you expect. They can handle tasks with the right instructions and understanding. Give them more chores and ways to help around the house to gain a sense of accomplishment.
Get your children involved in activities that encourage social interaction. Many schools, church groups, and social organizations are putting together activities to help children come back together and enjoy each other's company. But, it's up to you to encourage your children to become involved.
One final thing – we've seen that children left to their own devices choose their social interaction on the device rather than in person. They would rather sleep and stay in bed rather than run around.
It's up to you to change that and encourage better habits and better behavior.