Technology: The Death of our Children?

We live in the Google age, the Google Generation, a “NOW!” society. The world is, quite literally, virtually at our fingertips. We can instant message, Skype, text, Beluga, Facebook, Tweet…the list goes on and on. We can do all of these things, that I’ll loosely call communication, right from the palm of our hand. I think these are all great things, but I also think our children are in grave danger. Am I being over-reactive? Perhaps. But please hear me out.

I’ll be the first to say that I love all of my “toys.” I love my Tivo, my iPhone, my computer, I have my eye on an iPad2…you get the picture. However, my son also loves all my toys. He knows how to start/stop the Tivo, he knows how to unlock my iPhone (or his hand-me-down iPod) and find his games, and he loves watching videos of volcanos on YouTube. He’s a typical four year old, right? Sadly…yes, but let’s dig a bit deeper.

Think back for a moment. What were you doing when you were four (or eight, or 12, or…)? Were you playing a handheld game? No. You might have been playing the original Nintendo, but most likely you weren’t. You didn’t have the world at your fingertips. You couldn’t text your best friend (who was simply on the other side of the room) to ask if they wanted to trade baseball cards or play after school. You had to get on your bike and ride to their house (or…gasp…WALK!). If they were home and available, GREAT! If they weren’t, well, you headed home.

Today’s generation is different. “Communication” (again I’m using that term loosely) is easy. However, the difference isn’t in the technology, but rather that the technology allows us to be inactive IF we choose to be. For the amount of time that my kid watches Curious George on Tivo or plays Angry Birds on the iPhone, he’s spending MUCH more time playing “Star Wars” outside with his buddy Max from down the street or exploring our backyard looking for sticks, bugs and anything else that he can bring in the house (despite his parents’ wishes!). He has a swing set that he loves and his bat, ball, and batting tee are never too far away. The bottom line? He’s active. It’s the kids who aren’t that I’m worried about.

Inactivity, and especially the “sitting” position that most of these kids are in all day, will lead to a myriad of problems. Sure, chronic pain will set it, but I think it goes way beyond that. What’s the position your shoulders and upper spine are in when at your desk or playing a video game? Rounded. And what organs are inside your ribcage and abdomen? Lungs and heart (among others). The repetitive nature of this position, and the fact that it’s being instilled in our youngsters at such a young age, I believe will have a profound effect on their overall health. I believe that over the next few decades we will see a rise in respiratory and circulatory issues. Think about it–if your shoulders and upper spine are continually rounded forward, your lungs have heart don’t have a chance to function properly. And I believe that the longterm effect will be negative and ultimately dangerous. Asthma, respiratory failure, and hearth disease are just a few possible symptoms. I’m not here to tell you the sky is falling, but I am here to deliver a wakeup call.

The youngest client I have had in-clinic was 21 months old. That may sound extreme, but not when you stop to think that I was taking my oldest son through e-cises before we even left the hospital with him when he was born! The parent of the 21 month old knew that her daughter was heading down a path of dysfunction that would ultimately bring pain and suffering in the child’s older years. Her daughter was a twin and was pushed to one side of her mother’s womb, while the other sister was able to spread out, move and develop properly over the +/-40 weeks. There was a major developmental difference between the two sisters, and the mother was worried about the smaller one. You can call it “maternal instincts,” but I believe she had every right to be worried, and she took action.

So what’s the solution? It’s simple: Movement. Get your kids moving, keep your kids moving and encourage an active lifestyle. Try these movements with your children (yes, I said “with”!): Wheelbarrows, Bear Crawls, Leap Frog, Crab Walks, Crawl Unders (have them crawl under a chair, ladder, or your legs), Somersaults, and Pillow Hops (have them hop side-to-side over a pillow and also forwards-and-backwards over the pillow).

After you try them, let me know what you think! Did your kids enjoy them? My guess is that they were working hard without even realizing it. How hard were YOU working?