How the impact of technology can influence kids’ socialising abilities and fitness levels

From social media platforms to smart gadgets, kids all over the UK seem to be becoming more involved with technology. What effect is it having on them? 

Chill Factore offer lift passes, fun family days out, and skiing and snowboarding lessons for sports-fans of all ages and have decided to look into this issue and explore whether gadgets and technology really do influence our kids. Can it cause poor communication skills and reduced physical activity as some say or do they encourage and help our children? 

Apparently, UK households have approximately 18 smart devices! How crazy is that? I can think of six in our house – two smartphones, three tablets and a smart TV. Even that seems too much to me! The Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board (BARB) discovered that many homes have multiple TV sets, rather than only one that perhaps remains downstairs. We have two – one downstairs and one in our room (which used to be in Jack’s).

As of the end of 2017, 11.54 million households owned one television set, 8.66 million owned two television sets, 4.11 million owned three television sets and 1.75 million owned four television sets. Do we really need that many? Smart speakers, including Google Home and Microsoft’s Cortana, are becoming ever more popular in the UK. Research actually discovered that there was a 212% year-on-year increase of these gadgets across the world in in 2017, with the UK and US making up an approximate 89% of the market. Smart speakers are designed to provide fast and simple ways to attain information. Yes they can be handy and help with kids’ learning — but do they also eliminate the necessity or desire to explore ideas and topics in depth, and could this affect a child’s ability to discuss ideas with friends, face to face?  What do you think?

How technology influences children’s physical health  

It’s a well-worn argument that watching too much TV or playing too many online games impact negatively on physical health — but are there any positives regarding kids’ fitness and technology use? According to an Ofcom 2017 media use report, 53% of 3-4-year-olds go online for 8 hours a week, 79% of 5-7-year-olds go online for 9 hours a week, 94% of 8-11-year-olds go online for 13.5 hours a week, 99% of 12-15-year-olds go online for 21 hours a week. This is a big jump in both percentages and hours as we go up in age, is this because their internet time isn’t as regulated?

It shocks me that less than 10% of parents state that their children (aged between 5-16 years) participate in the one hour a day of physical activity, which is the amount that the government recommends. Is smart tech stopping them from doing this? It may be possible that technology is not entirely to blame. To explore this idea, we’ll look at the use of technology in previous generations. According to The World Health Organization, the amount of obese youths aged 5-19 years has risen tenfold in the past four decades. Although we could also accuse diet and education of playing a part in this worrying figure, technology should arguably also be held partially accountable, as its influence and use have clearly grown during this time frame. 

What positives are there for tech use by children though? There are many, actually. YouTube is a great platform for watching tutorial videos that can help kids practice a sport and there are consoles like Nintendo Wii which encourage physical movement. There are  also many child-friendly apps for everything from yoga to running that are created to help get kids active. Plus, many after-school sports clubs run Facebook and Twitter accounts to persuade kids surfing online to join. Jack’s after school sports club does this!.

How technology influences children’s social skills  

Social media platforms can help kids to maintain relationships with friends, while programs like Skype allow tutors to speak with pupils and carry out lessons in a virtual classroom. Smartphones are also good for helping kids stay in contact with their parents when they’re out, there’s no denying they have their uses.

Of course, with the news reports reading cyber bullying, many believe that using technology to socialise is a bad thing. Research conducted at Newcastle University discovered that primary school kids who watched up to three hours of TV a day were better communicators at secondary school. Watching more than three hours however was thought to lower linguistic skills. This research is a cause for concern as is the research that states 96% of 3-4-year-olds watch TV on a TV set for 15 hours a week, 95% of 5-7-year-olds watch TV on a TV set for 13.5 hours a week, 95% of 8-11-year-olds watch TV on a TV set for 14 hours a week and 91% of 12-15-year-olds watch TV on a TV set for 14.5 hours a week. Seems almost positive but this doesn’t include stuff such as YouTube!

So, what do medical experts think about technology use and how this can affect a child’s ability to speak with peers in a face-to-face environment? Child psychologist at the Child Mind Institute in New York, Melissa Ortega, said that children use their phones as an “avoidance strategy” and can have trouble starting “those small talk situations”. Similarly, Dr. Jenny Radesky of Boston Medical Center, claimed that kids “learn by watching,” and suggested that if they aren’t taking part in physical socialisation, opting for screens instead, then they are not participating in crucial communication development stages.

Top ways you can encourage physical activity and social interaction in children

Technology is here to stay, so how do parents incorporate it safely into their children’s lives? Here are some tips on getting kids involved in activities to improve their fitness and social abilities:

  • Organise fun group activities to boost fitness and socialising — like the Chill Factore kids snow school.
  • Ban phones from the dinner table to encourage conversation.
  • Stop your child from taking their phones/tablets to bed. The blue light emitted from these devices harms sleep quality.
  • Start cycling or walking with your child to school.
  • Take your child and their friends to a sports venue regularly to help improve physical activity and socialising in one go.  
  • Arrange family hikes.
  • Find apps on your child’s phone that are designed to encourage physical activity.
  • Ask your child if they want to be involved in a school club. Whether it’s sports-based or not, it should still get them away from their screens and socialising.

It seems that technology has both pros and cons However, it will always be important to get active and make time for socialising. If not overused, your child should be fine to engage with technology on a daily basis, perhaps just limit your child’s time and adopt some of the above tips to make sure that technology doesn’t adversely affect your child’s social or physical development.

Want to help your kids get active? Plan a visit to Chill Factore in Manchester to enjoy skiing, snowboarding and other fun snow activities on the UK’s longest indoor real snow slope. Contact us today for more information.

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Raising A Sporty Child

You wouldn’t think it if you knew me now but when I was younger, of primary school age, I was very sporty. I played for the netball and rounders teams and we also did basketball where we had our own teams within the school. Steve also played for school teams and was very sport obsessed and now Jack is showing a keen interest in sport.

Both my side of the family and Steve’s love sport. When we go round to Steve’s parents, you can almost guarantee some form of sport will be on the TV. Members of my family have been semi pro at sports – my brother got scouted for quite a big football team and my cousin went on a golf scholarship to the USA – so you can see where the love comes from.

Something I have always said is that I will never push Jack into doing anything he doesn’t want to. He tells me what he wants to do and I help him. Right now he is doing an after school club which was football for the past two terms and is now cricket, tennis and athletics and is keen to start cricket outside of school too. He has golf lessons with a Pro at our local golf club and is always looking to sign up for local races – he’s actually got both myself and him signed up to the village Fun Run this weekend!

With that much sport on his agenda, you’d think he wouldn’t be interested in anything else but he is now keen to finally get the knack of riding his bike – especially with the village cycle race coming up in a month or so – and has been going on at us about getting a skateboard, just like the ones at Skate Hut! We have some ramps nearby and a skate park the next town over so he is keen to get one and learn how to do different tricks just like a few of his friends have started to.

Raising a sporty child can be stressful sometimes and can be quite expensive too. However there is also the warm feeling you get at seeing how happy it makes your child to do something he loves, especially when he achieves something – such as when he raised hundreds of pounds for Cancer Research UK from a charity race he ran. Plus the extra time I get to myself whilst he does something he enjoys is great – I get to get some other stuff done whilst he is improving on his skills.

I’m sure he will probably get interested in even more sports as the months go on, especially with summer here and plenty of sporty activities to do in our village!

Are your kids sporty?

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Everything You Need To Know To Prepare Your Kids For School

Starting school can be a tough time for kids; they might be anxious about this big change in their lives, what they’ll have to do, and the people they are going to meet. This is why doing your utmost to ensure that your kids are prepared for starting school is a great idea. You’ll reduce nerves and anxiety and they’ll feel better prepared to learn and make great friends.

Read on to find out what you should do to prepare your kids for school:

Discuss Their New Schedule

Your kids may be anxious because they aren’t sure what their days are going to be like anymore. Discuss their new schedule with them. Tell them when they’ll be at school, the breaks they’ll have, food, and what time they’ll get home. This could ease their concerns that school is going to be like a prison and they’ll be there all day long. The days actually tend to fly by!

Attend An Orientation Session Together

Attending an orientation session gives them a chance to meet teachers and other kids, and allows them to get a feel for the lay out of the school and what to expect. This is an important step before sending them off for their first day.

Organise Playdates

If you can, organise playdates with kids you know will be going to your kid’s school. They won’t have to worry about making friends so much this way, and they’ll be glad to see a friendly face. Being a kid that nobody knows can be tough!

Talk About Their Feelings

It’s important that you open up a dialogue about your kid’s feelings, and make sure you don’t invalidate them in any way. Even if their concerns sound a little silly to you, you should never say that in front of them or make them feel that way. Listen to them carefully, and then address their concerns in a way that helps to ease their worries. Maybe they feel like they won’t make any friends, or that they’ll miss you too much, or they have a worry about something completely abstract. Let them know that you’re there to speak to them whatever their worries might be.

Highlighting The Positives

Always talk about school in a positive way, and make sure you highlight the positives of school to get them excited about going. You can talk about subjects that they are already interested in, playground equipment, and other things that you know will ease their fears about school.

Reassure Them

Make sure you reassure your kids that if anything does happen that they are unhappy about, you will do your utmost to rectify it.

After School Activities

If your child loves gymnastics, books, or something else, you could see if there are any after school activities available for them to join. This is another great way to help them to make friends and build their confidence, not to mention learn to love a learning environment.

Properly preparing your kids for school will give the whole family and easier and happier life!

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How can you extend learning outdoors past the classroom?

When you think of a classroom, what springs to mind? Most likely it is a room, indoors, with desks and chairs facing a whiteboard on the wall. It’s important to remember, however, that this isn’t the only environment that a child can learn in and, as research has shown, it may not be the most effective.

Many children are going home after school and spending time on their tablets and devices instead of playing outdoors like previous generations. Introducing outdoor play at school provides them with an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and engage with nature.

Together with Infinite Playgrounds, creators of sensory playgrounds, we look at the benefits of learning outdoors and how to adapt lessons to teach outside.

What are the benefits of learning outdoors?

In addition to encouraging children to appreciate the outdoors, there are many benefits of learning outside of the traditional classroom.

One benefit is the opportunity for children to exhibit some physical activity that wouldn’t be possible indoors. In the school yard or in a sensory playground, there is lots of space for the children to run around and play — raising their heartrate and keeping them active.

Another benefit is the encouraged use of imagination. There is plenty for children to discover outdoors; from plants they may not have seen before to minibeasts that catch their eye. Before the children learn what these are, they might use their imagination with their peers to guess what a certain animal is or what one of the plants is called. This stretch of imagination will become useful when they begin to write creatively or during drama exercises.

When children are learning about how plants grow, for example, it will make the lesson much more memorable for them when they can touch the plants and the soil. 92% of teachers surveyed said that their pupils were more engaged with learning when they were outdoors.

85% of teachers reported that they saw a positive impact on their pupils’ behaviour when they were being taught outside. This could be down to the children finding more enjoyment in outdoor classrooms — 92% of pupils said that they preferred their lessons outdoors.

It is possible that the introduction of outdoor classrooms could improve school attendance rates, too. If children are enjoying their lessons more, it is likely that they will have more motivation to come to school.

How can you adapt classroom teaching to the outdoors?

Teaching outdoors does not have to massively disrupt your curriculum, there are many ways that you can alter your lesson plans so that you can take them outside. The main thing about outdoor teaching is that it shouldn’t be overly teacher-controlled — it is important for children to be aware of the safety hazards outdoors. But apart from this, they should be encouraged to step outside of their comfort zones.

There are many new resources that become available when a lesson is taught outside, as well as all of the extra space. Teaching outside can be beneficial for the teacher as well as the children, 90% of staff found that outdoor teaching was useful for curriculum delivery.

Maths

Depending on the age group of your class, there are many ways that you can teach maths outdoors. For the younger children, consider bringing shapes and counting outdoors and asking some of the following questions: How many petals does this flower have? How many circles can you spot? How many legs does the picnic table have? You could take pictures of the shapes to have a look at when you get back into the classroom.

For an older age group, encourage them to measure each other doing the long jump or provide stop watches and let them time each other running a certain distance. When you get back to the classroom, teach the children how to plot these numbers on a graph.

English

For English, consider allowing the children to explore the area around them and draw some minibeasts that they can see. When you get back to the classroom encourage the children to write down a short story involving their pictures. For younger children, they could colour in the pictures when they get back and talk about a made-up story.

Science

There is lots to do with science outdoors. You can teach children how plants grow and even allow them to plant their own seeds, visiting them regularly and explaining the scientific processes behind the plant’s development. Children can also learn about heart rate through exercising outdoors.

It appears that most lessons can be taken outdoors and the benefits are hard to ignore, the next time you are planning your week ahead consider taking the class outdoors and allow your pupils to push their boundaries.

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Hiring The Right Childcare For Your Family

When it comes to your children, you will always want the best for them. This sometimes means making sacrifices for them. We are quite lucky at the moment that I have been making enough from my blog and freelance work for me to work around the kids (thus attending all parent evenings, assemblies, clubs) and enabling Steve to work part time.

However we want to move out of the house we are in now as it is only two bedroom and Olivia needs her own room as Jack’s room is just too small for her to move into. Unfortunately the house prices around here are much more than what we are currently paying but we can’t move as Jack is far too settled at his school – and it is one of the best around for miles. The alternative? Steve and I both go back to work full time. But then that leaves us with a problem – childcare.

I had Jack at home until he was just over 3 – he then went to preschool for 3 hours a day Monday-Thursday and then in the September went to the nursery attached to the school. Olivia is a lot younger than Jack was when he first went into childcare and I obviously don’t have much experience in choosing it so I’ve compiled a few top tips on choosing the best childcare for you and your family.

Check, check and check again

Whether you are using a nursery or a private caregiver, you will of course be doing checks. When it comes to nurseries, check the Ofsted ratings – not just the most recent rating either. You want to know if they have gone downhill over the years or if they have improved dramatically and why these things have happened. You want to ask friends and family who have prior experience with the place what they felt.

If choosing a private caregiver, you will of course be choosing someone registered – but using an online background checking service is a good idea. Any caregiver should be DBS checked and registered with the relevant authorities. Again, ask around to see what other people have experienced with them.

Follow your child’s lead

It’s all well and good if you feel comfortable – you obviously do want to be comfortable leaving your child somewhere but it is your child who should have the ultimate decision. I am not saying ask your child outright where they want to go – that’s silly – but you will know if your child feels comfortable or not in a caregiving setting. They may be really unhappy at the nursery but prefer a childminder – once you’ve done your research, are you really going to ignore your child’s feelings and put them in the caregiving setting they dislike? If Jack had ever shown any signs of being uncomfortable in any childcare he had been in, I would have taken him straight back out. It is so important to follow your child’s lead when it comes to things like this.

Check your budget

Don’t promise yourself and your child the world when you may not be able to afford it. There are a few different care options in our area – a nursery, a pre school and various childminders. I know who or what we would be able to afford budget wise and would then work out which is the best for my child accordingly. Interestingly the most expensive option is the one I would least likely to send Olivia too for various other reasons and not the money!

How do you pick childcare for your family? Do you do these things above?

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