SILVER SPRING, MD – June 16, 2015 – If you want your children to be active and fit while having fun, don’t be a ‘helicopter’ parent. The results of recent research indicate that 7-to-12-year-old children with overly involved and protective parents tend to spend less time being physically active and playing sports.
The research, published in the April issue of Preventive Medicine, reveals that 40 percent of the 724 parents in the Queen’s University (Canada) study are guilty of ‘hyperparenting.’ The findings of the Queen’s University study report that most active kids have parents in the low-to-below average ‘hyperparenting’ scores while the least active kids have parents with the above average-to-high scores.
One of the big negative side effects of ‘hyperparenting’ is that children miss out on roughly 20 different physical activity experiences each week. Those physical activity experiences are a vital part of a young person’s overall development. That’s why it’s no surprise to see declines in team sports play by children in recent years.
“Hyperparenting fits the law of unintended consequences,” says Carl Honore, author of Under Pressure, which focuses on the topic on ‘hyperparenting.’ “It starts from the noble and natural instinct to do the best for our children. The ‘Inactivity Pandemic’ is a case in point. As parents, we put so much emphasis on building the perfect résumé and burnishing our kids’ academic credentials, and we are so afraid of letting them take risks or even venture out of our sight, that we end up denying them what they really need to stay fit and healthy: the time, space and freedom to run around, play outside and get exercise on their own. What exercise they do get is often supervised and directed by adults. And research shows that kids tend to burn fewer calories in structured play than in unstructured.”
The significance of these ‘hyperparenting’ findings are complemented by a recent TED Talk presentation by Peter Gray, who states that young people need more ‘play’ in their lives. For children, it’s a necessary part of their growth and education. Without it, “it’s a worse world for kids,” says Gray.
Gray is not advocating that people start immediately doing more calisthenics, though that is a good idea. Instead, Gray reveals that our kids simply need more ‘play’ – at public parks, in the backyard, or in gyms.
The roots of Gray’s presentation can be traced to normal behavior by mammals. He states that ‘play’ is Mother Nature’s way of giving people the skills necessary to develop in life. And, with ‘play,’ you learn how to solve problems and experience joy.
Sadly, Gray reports that for the last 50 to 60 years, ‘play’ has been taken away by many elements of society. But, he says there is a solution to the matter.
“Develop neighborhood networks, establish places to play, build adventure playgrounds, and open gyms for free play,” says Gray.
Gray is not the only person with strong feelings about how sports are structured and organized in the U.S. According to Jeremy Goldberg, President, League Apps (New York, NY), we live in a society where parents like to have all activities structured and organized.
While a company like League Apps benefits from structured sports as it automates the work flow for those who are organizing the schedule for a team, a league or a tournament, he says there’s technology which inhibits ‘hyperparenting’ by providing lightly structured sports experiences for children. These environments have some form of supervision while giving the participating athletes the freedom to pick the teams, establish the ground rules, resolve any disputes, and play the sport. That runs counter to ‘hyperparenting,’ adds Goldberg.
“Too many children are getting turned off by how serious sports have become,” notes Mike May, Director of Communications, PHIT America. “If they don’t make a ‘travel’ team in any given sport, then many children drop out of sports and then don’t play any sport or do any type of physical activity.”
The side effects of ‘hyperparenting’ currently have national health care implications.
“Physical inactivity is the biggest public health problem in the 21st Century,” says Dr. Steven Blair, professor of the departments of exercise science and epidemiology/biostatistics at the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina.
“Those findings are one of the many reasons why the U.S. is suffering from an ‘Inactivity Pandemic,’ which is affecting roughly 83 million people,” says Jim Baugh, Founder of PHIT America. “It’s important for parents to be involved in the lives of their children, but not to the effect that they limit their amount of healthy physical activity.”