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Posts Tagged ‘Role Model’

As the parent of a one-year old, I sometimes feel like my husband and I find ourselves playing a game of “hide the smart phone” with our son. We try to keep our phones out of sight because the moment he sees one, he grabs for it and wants to play with it. I’m sure many parents of young children can relate!

Earlier this year, a colleague of mine sent me an article titled “Is Secondhand Screen Time the New Secondhand Smoking?” This article certainly has an eye-catching title that may seem extreme to some. While I think this article has some valid points, I want to acknowledge up front that screens are not inherently evil, and the author of this article is not saying that a parent’s use of a screen is the same as a parent’s choice to smoke. Unlike smoking, screens have many useful and necessary functions in our world today, and it would be unreasonable to stop using them altogether.

What is concerning about parents’ screen use is that – like smoking – screens can be addictive.

When parents “read the news, check email, text friends or scan social media parenting groups… kids, even babies, notice these habits. They see parents reach again and again for a seemingly magical object that glints and flashes, makes sounds and shows moving images. Who wouldn’t want such a wonderful plaything? Trouble is, if the desire for a phone builds in infancy, it can become second nature.”

As I watch my own son grow and develop, I am becoming ever more aware of how I am always on stage for him. He is constantly watching what I say and do and learning how to interact with the world through me. Consequently, I have become much more mindful about how, when and where I use my smart phone. I have made a conscious effort to refrain from checking email or social media at times when I could be interacting or engaging in unplugged playtime with him, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. This effort has necessitated a shift in my media use habits. I check apps less often and only during certain times of the day. To help lessen the temptation to pick up my phone while with my son, I also turned off all non-essential notifications such as those for email and social media. Currently, the only notifications I receive are for phone calls and text messages.

Still, there are times when my husband or I need to use a smart phone in the presence of our son. In these occasions, some experts suggest narrating your actions to your children, whether you are ordering diapers or checking the weather. When parents take time to explain how they use their screens, and when they mindfully consider their use of screens in the first place, they help children learn to interact with technology in a healthy way.

Written by: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Franklin County

Reviewed by:  Donna Green, Retired Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Erie County

Sources:

American Academy of Pediatrics (2018). Children and Media Tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics. https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/news-features-and-safety-tips/Pages/Children-and-Media-Tips.aspx

Caron, C. (2019). Ask NYT Parenting: I use my phone for everything. Is that harming my kids? https://parenting.nytimes.com/culture/phones-parents

Powers-Barker, P. (2019). Congratulations! You are a role model. Live Smart Ohio. https://livesmartohio.osu.edu/family-and-relationships/powers-barker-1osu-edu/congratulations-you-are-a-role-model/ Renstrom, J. (2020).

Is secondhand screen time the new secondhand smoking? The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/is-secondhand-screen-time-the-new-secondhand-smoking-129500

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As we work to take small steps to improve our health and well-being, are we taking into account the influence we have on others? As parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches, volunteers, and our other roles, are we helping the youth and young parents make changes and establish habits to improve their long-term health and wellbeing?

I always think of examples of how this has played out in my life. As a dietitian, I have always encouraged my children to eat a well-balanced and healthy diet. My son was an athlete who ran a half mile run as part of the track team. I always encouraged him to drink milk, even chocolate milk, after competition as a post workout recovery drink. As a mother, my advice often went unheard, but one day I came home to see my son sitting at the table drinking a glass of milk. Being excited I commented on his change of heart and the happiness that he was following my input. Suddenly he replied by discussing the information that the track coach had shared about the value of drinking chocolate milk and so he was willing to try it. My excitement may have diminished, but the idea is that role models from other influences such as teachers, coaches, volunteers etc… are very important and valuable in the life of our children and youth.

Another example was a preschool education session I observed. The educator was discussing the importance of eating and drinking healthy foods. As the educator was talking the preschool teachers were sneaking a drink of soda pop and had bags of cookies on their desk. What are the students seeing to reinforce the messages being taught? Although no one eats perfectly or is as physically active as they need to be every day, when we are in a position to be observed by younger children or students are we displaying the kind of behaviors we hope those children and youth can learn good long term habits from?
Positive Role Model

The USDA has a great 10 tips nutrition education handout that is titled, “Be a Healthy Role Model for Children”. The ten tips are great ideas for all of us to keep in mind as we go through our daily routines and possibility influence others.

These tips are:

• Show by example— eat vegetables, fruits and whole grains when youth are watching you.
• Go food shopping together—let your children make healthy choices.
• Get creative in the kitchen—cut food into fun shapes or name a food after your child.
• Offer the same foods for every one—stop being a short order cook.
• Reward with attention, not food—everyone likes a hug.
• Focus on each other at the table—turn off the television and take calls after the meal is over.
• Listen to your child—offer your child a choice between two vegetables.
• Limit screen time—limit screen time to 2 hours and day and get up and move during the commercials.
• Encourage physical activity—make physical activity fun for the whole family.
• Be a good food role model—try new foods yourself.

Check out this tip sheet and others at the ChooseMyPlate.gov website. Consider putting this and others on the refrigerator for quick reminders of how easy being a good role model can be. With little effort you can make a big difference in someone else’s life!

Sources:

University of Texas at Austin, (2011). Chocolate Milk Gives Athletes a Leg Up after Exercise Says University of Texas Austin Study.

http://www.ChooseMyPlate.gov

Writer: Liz Smith, M.S., RDN., L.D., NE Program Specialist, Ohio State University Extension, smith.3993@osu.edu

Reviewer: Michelle Treber, M.A., L.D., Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Pickaway County, Treber.1@osu.edu

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