Will Technology Make My Child Obese? (And Other Physical Development Concerns)

Did you know that obesity in children is the No. 1 health concern among American parents? For good reason, as statistics show that about one in five American children and teens are overweight or obese. While health advocates agree that a number of factors contribute to the rise in obesity in children, technology is drawing more attention as a potential threat to children’s physical health. What’s more, some teachers worry that technology may be getting in the way of developing the motor skills necessary to succeed in school.

We’ve already looked at how technology influences children’s emotional development, self-esteem, and thinking. Now let’s examine how technology affects your children’s physical development and motor skills. This quick guide looks at the pros and cons and what parents need to keep in mind.

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Children and Technology: Impacts on Physical Development

What does technology use mean for your child’s physical development and motor skills?

Pros:

  • Some apps encourage children to get off the couch and play. One of the most popular topics in Jellies, for example, is filled with videos that prompt children to march in place, jump, and dance in time with music. Other Jellies topics inspire children to practice their handwriting, drawing, and creative skills.
  • Children need fine motor skills (finger, hand, wrist, and toe movements) and gross motor skills (arms, legs, and feet) for coordination. Touch screens and other technology provide additional ways for children to practice their eye-hand and visual-motor skills.

Cons:

  • Most technology encourages sedentary behavior. Movement isn’t necessary to watch videos or play a game on a tablet or phone. Instead, it takes away from valuable, active play time.
  • Encouragement and tutorials from good kids apps only go so far. Children still need the time and resources to practice motor skills. For example, some teachers are concerned that technology is getting in the way of children building enough hand strength needed to hold a pencil.

What Parents Need to Know About Children and Technology

How much time your children spend on screens matters. It’s no big surprise that if your children are on a phone or tablet most of the day, they’re missing out on the active and creative pursuits that make up a healthy, balanced life. Excessive technology use often leads to the overall lack of physical activity that can cause weight gain. Add to that improper nutrition and family history and you have a recipe for disaster.

This doesn’t mean you need to eliminate all screen time from your children’s schedules. As noted above, some kids technology, like Jellies, actually inspires children to be active and stretch their creative minds to try new, fun things. It’s up to you to set boundaries for your children’s screen use alongside active and social playtime. For help with this, check out our resource on establishing screen time rules for your family.

Head on over to the Jellies blog for more resources about children and technology. We tackle popular tech parenting topics like The Trouble With Kids Video Apps and How to Set Up Parental Controls on Your iPhone or iPad.