Parenting in a digital age: 5 tips to keeping your child active

One of my favourite aspects of my role with the UK Safer Internet Centre is when schools ask us to run sessions for parents. We talk about all sorts of things, such as the latest games, apps, technology, filters and screen time.

I am a parent myself, I have three great kids. Two of them are a little older and have flown the nest (well almost) but my third is 10 years old. He is your typical ‘tweenager,’ not quite a teenager, but growing up so fast and heavily influenced by the online world especially gaming and YouTube.

Screen time is always a great conversation, one of my colleagues Julia Adamson wrote a great article about it recently. Just how much time should you allow young people to spend online?

I often give advice to parents around these subjects, so I found the recent findings by The British Journal of Sports Medicine - that exercise levels are in decline among children as young as 7 - really interesting. It made me reflect on some of my own advice. What do I do to get my own child active?

Five tips to keeping your child active

A BBC report into the study offers these tips to keep your child active. So I decided to see how we measure up:

1.  Walk or Cycle to school as often as you can

We live miles away from our school so walking is out of the question. There are no cycle paths near us either and several main roads and crossings to negotiate, so that would be too dangerous. So we have compromised - we park away from the school in a less busy area. My son then hops on his scooter and scoots to school and I walk beside him.

2. Find time every weekend to do something active with your children

Great, I can definitely tick this one off my list. We live by the sea, so swimming lessons have been a part of his life for a long time. I wanted him to have confidence in the water and at the very least be able to swim well. So once a week we do swimming/lifesaving lessons.

3. Support your child in any sport, club or activity that interests them

No, I have definitely failed at this one. My young man has shown no interest in any clubs. We have pointed him towards different clubs a number of times, but shock, gasp, horror, he would rather be on his Xbox. So they have never lasted.

4. Take part in a fun run or charity challenge together

I am smiling now as we do this one. Not every weekend but we often do run together as a family with hundreds of others from all over the UK, and all for free. We are part of the ParkRun family. There are lots of free 5K runs (and walks, lots of people walk) all over the UK.

How do we get him to take part? Simple…bribery. The promise of a hot chocolate & a bacon butty at the end and we tell him that if he wants to use his Xbox in the evening, then he needs to do some exercise.

5. Take the dog for a walk - if you haven’t got one, borrow one

This is my favourite. Getting a dog was one of the best things we have ever done. Even on the darkest, wettest day, that dog still needs a walk. The hardest thing is getting out of the door, but as a family, come rain or shine off we go. Not only is it great exercise, but it’s been amazing to witness the bond grow between the dog and my young man as they have grown up together.

Am I getting it right?

On the whole, we don’t do bad. I know as he gets older there will be greater challenges to come, especially balancing the amount of time he wants to spend using technology compared to doing exercise. I hope that with the few things we do, that we are on the right course.

There are other methods you can use like setting parental timers and developing a family agreement, and there are some great resources available to help parents. For our family though, nothing beats getting out in the fresh air once in a while. Give it a try!

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