Parental neglect is turning children into couch potatoes, two new studies say. Researchers at the Oregon State University in the US examined how parenting style was tied to their children’s sedentary behaviour. Overall, they found that children who had neglectful parents, or ones who weren’t home often, were getting 30 minutes more screen time on an average each week day, the journal Early Child Development and Care reports.
David Schary from Oregon, who co-authored both studies, found that all of the children aged two to four years were sitting more than several hours per day. ”Across all parenting styles, we saw anywhere from four to five hours a day of sedentary activity,” he said, according to an Oregon statement.
“This is waking hours not including naps or feeding. Some parents counted quiet play – sitting and colouring, working on a puzzle, etc. – as a positive activity, but this is an age where movement is essential,” added Schary, doctoral student in public health and human sciences at Oregon. While all the children in the sample of about 200 families were sitting four to five hours in a typical day, parents in the more neglectful category had children who were spending up to 30 additional minutes a day watching TV, playing a video game or being engaged in some other form of “screen time.”
“A half-an-hour each day may not seem like much, but add that up over a week, then a month, and then a year and you have a big impact,” Schary said. “One child may be getting up to four hours more active play every week, and this sets the stage for the rest of
their life.” Bradley Cardinal, professor of social psychology of physical activity at Oregon, who co-authored both papers with Schary, said sedentary behaviour goes against the natural tendencies of most preschool-age children.
“Toddlers and preschool-age children are spontaneous movers, so it is natural for them to have bursts of activity many minutes per hour,” he said. “We find that when kids enter school, their levels of physical activity decrease and overall, it continues to decline throughout their life.”