Bikes, Not Screens, for Greater Health & Happiness
Kids’ bikes are often referred to as “toys,” but a quality kids’ bike is much more than that—it’s a tool.The decisions you make for your children will affect their lives well into adulthood. As you face the challenges of parenting in the modern world, consider an “old-school” and yet increasingly relevant solution to problems like screen time, unhealthy weight, and too little time spent together as a family: Go for a ride!
Bike Time Beats Screen Time
New guidelines from the World Health Organization say that to grow up healthy, children should sit less and play more. The WHO promotes active play and recommends that screen time, often sedentary, be limited to one hour for children ages 2 to 4, and that infants under 1 year should not be exposed to electronic screens at all. The Center for Disease Control recommends limiting screen time to 1 to 2 hours a day for children ages 8 to 18, but data shows this age group spends a surprisingly unhealthy amount of time in front of a screen—an average of 7.5 hours per day!
The National Institutes of Health’s A.B.C.D. (Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development) study featured on “60 Minutes” in December pointed to a disturbing possibility: screen time could be affecting how children’s brains develop, causing accelerated cortical thinning. Data also showed that kids who spend more than two hours a day on screens got lower scores on thinking and language tests.
The A.B.C.D. study, like many others, is ongoing and is designed to track large numbers of children into adulthood. Unfortunately, that means as today’s children grow up among an ever-changing array of digital devices, we don’t know exactly how their use of those devices will affect them in the future. What we do know for certain, however, is that screen time takes children away from other things they could be doing, such as engaging in active play, spending time outside, and hanging out with friends. Such activities are crucial to a child’s physical, emotional, and social development.
And kids aren’t the only ones who have difficulty managing screen time, of course—parents struggle too. Social scientists have coined the term “technoference” to describe the intrusions of digital devices during social interactions. Research shows that parents who are distracted by mobile devices interact less with their children; children competing against digital devices for their parents’ attention are also more at risk for behavior problems and other issues.
Digital devices are hard to put down, but consider trading in tablets and smartphones for some time on two wheels. Biking is the type of good medicine that kids need, but it’s also pure, healthy fun.
Physically Active Kids Live Healthier, Longer Lives
According to the CDC, nearly one in five young people in the United States is obese. The percentage of children and adolescents affected by obesity has more than tripled since the 1970s.
Children with obesity are at a higher risk for a host of other chronic health conditions and diseases, such as asthma, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
Good health is about a lot more than maintaining a healthy weight, however. The CDC recommends an hour of daily physical activity, which should include aerobic, muscle-strengthening, and bone-strengthening activities. Kids who participate in regular exercise have higher levels of fitness, lower body fat, and stronger bones and muscles, and benefit from brain-boosting health benefits of physical activity like improved cognition and reduced symptoms of depression.
Each time you get your child out and being active is like putting coins in a piggy bank—a bike ride is an investment in good health for the future.
Family Time on the Bike
The demands society puts on modern-day parents are high. But as you navigate your hectic calendar of life’s to-do’s, don’t forget to make time to have fun. Family time on a bike is an opportunity for adventure, stress relief, and most importantly, lasting memories.
Numerous studies have shown that family leisure time strengthens emotional bonds and is associated with positive outcomes like improved family function, cohesion, adaptability, and communication. Though it can seem like a simple, even routine thing, doing something fun together as a family is deeply meaningful.
Don’t forget that a bike is a means of transportation, too—if pressed for time, consider ways to incorporate a family bike ride into getting where you have to go anyway, like school or the grocery store.
Moms and dads often report back to woom HQ after purchasing woom bikes to say how much biking has changed their day-to-day lives as a family. With the woom 1 balance bike, they can go on long hikes with their toddler, who would never have made it that far on foot without being carried. Or with woom’s first pedal bikes (the woom 2 and woom 3) and larger models, parents say they’re heading out for a run or bike ride with their children on a regular basis, fitting in their own workout time. Some start a routine of commuting by bike to school.
Bikes can be enjoyable for everyone, a welcome opportunity to leave social media, work emails, and all the other cares of the digital world behind and instead create memories and foster lasting emotional and physical benefits for the whole family.
For more tips on how to get started, ride better, or have fun on bikes as a family, check out these related articles: