Health Column

by Sifu (Dr.) Rikin Patel MD

Screens and digital media impact all of us especially now during the current pandemic.

While I target this article to help Youth (>5yo) and Junior students, my request is for all Adult students and parents to take a moment to reflect on their own screen practices with the hope of modeling positive changes. In this two-part series, I will first start with briefly describing the scope of the issue with motivation for our students and then in the second part provide a 4 Ms approach for parents to navigate this issue better with their children.

According to the Canadian Pediatric Society ‘screen time’ refers to time spent with any screen, including smart phones, tablets, television, video games, computers or wearable technology. In a 2018 study by MediaSmarts, parents report that about 36% of their 10-13-year-olds spend 3 hours or more per day using digital devices for reasons unrelated to schoolwork. That’s at least 21 hours a week! Another nation-wide survey, noted that high school students in Ontario, were averaging more than 7.5 hours per day on various screens, with 20% of high-schoolers spending 5 hours or more per day on social media alone. However, research suggests that teens are less susceptible to the negative effects of high screen time levels (i.e.,> 6hr/day) than younger children.

It has been shown that among teens that excessive screen times (>6hrs/day) has been connected to both depression and increased anxiety. For adolescents that spend more than 50% of their free time on e-games, it has been linked to conduct problems, hyperactivity, peer and emotional problems. Increased screen time has been connected to increased weight gain due to increased sedentary behaviour and poor diet. Both sleep duration and quality is clearly negatively impacted when it is too close to bedtime. Finally, parents also perceive decreased family time and closeness in home where many devices erode family connectedness.

By reducing our “screen time” to a minimum, as martial artists we have a tremendous opportunity. Not only can we improve our Kung Fu skills, sharpen our minds and bodies but we can also be powerful examples of discipline (that we develop through Kung Fu) to our friends and family members to inspire change amongst them. As I tell my patients and families at work, having extra time during this pandemic also gives us a unique opportunity to learn a completely new skill or explore a new activity, even if it simply eating healthier, reading more or choosing a new family activity.

To conclude, WFKA is introducing a “Knock Out” screen time summer challenge. Here are the steps for students wanting to participate:

  1. Commit, by documenting the amount of total “screen time” you have in a day.
  2. Choose a way to document the number of min/hours reduced daily or weekly
  3. Describe how you shifted that time into ANY other activity (i.e outdoor sport, kung fu, reading, time with family etc.)

Each person will be asked to write a brief reflection on the impact of how shifting their screen time positively changed their life. Sigung and myself will read them over and choose the most exceptional transformation – one Youth, Junior and Adult student. The winners will receive a gift certificate to WFKA Martial Arts Store in September. Amount TBA but it will be good $$$.