Has it really come to this, people? Do we really need to tell parents that they are “sentencing their children to disease” if they let them have more than two hours of screen time a day? I realize that inactivity and childhood obesity are very serious issues. I think there needs to be more honest discussion about these problems between parents and pediatricians. But it’s ridiculous to think that patronizing and insulting parents is going to do anything to help solve this growing problem.
An intensely hyperbolic piece in the Daily Mail today warns parents that they are sentencing their sedentary kids to cancer, obesity, heart disease and diabetes. It then goes on to spew a litany of statistics showing just how dangerous inactivity and obesity are, citing plenty of studies linking the problems to every disease under the sun.
Listen, parents know that limiting screen time and providing a nutritious diet are important. We’ve gotten that message. The problem is that there is so much sanctimony floating around, it’s difficult to have an honest conversation about this issue.
It is really simply to sit behind my computer and talk about all the ways that I want to keep my daughter healthy. It’s easy to brag that we eat green beans all the time and go on weekly hikes all summer long. Parents feel a big pat on the back every time we get to share just how healthy our family can be.
But you know what? It’s a lot harder to admit that daughter doesn’t just love green beans, she also loves french fries. She can’t get enough of them! The grease gives her a horrible stomach ache and she still begs for them. And every once in a while, I bake french fries for her. It’s a lot harder to say that even though she’ll spend an hour tonight at gymnastics class, she’ll probably come home and watch an episode of Scooby Doo while I get dinner around.
We spend a lot of time getting holier-than-thou about health. We spend much less time being realistic about children, activity and food. We spend less time supporting one another through what can be a difficult battle for many parents.
Maybe if professionals and parenting media spent less time telling parents that they’re condemning their children to a life of misery and more time giving realistic, positive advice, we could really help some parents who have a hard time making homemade meals or shutting off the television. We could help parents explain health issues to their children, so that they feel empowered to make their own good choices.
Instead of citing more studies, let’s give parents some quick, east recipes that their kids will actually eat. Instead of shaming screen time, let’s talk about how to integrate it into physical activities. Let’s provide more ideas and less guilt.
Maybe then, all this talk about screen time and obesity will actually help make the problem more manageable.