Early Years Exercise Key To A Healthier Life

As parents, we all have a responsibility to show our children the best example. Whether it is in how we behave, or in how we deal with the challenges of life, parents have a massive influence on their children – on both a conscious and sub-conscious level. One area in which this is of potentially life-saving importance is in health. Healthy parents tend to raise healthier children, and basic rules and examples you set now can actively prolong your child’s lifespan.

childhood exercise good healthA central component to this is exercise, and kids should be introduced to physical activity from an early age. Those who start to exercise young can develop a passion for sport and activity, in addition to becoming healthier as they grow into adult life. So how can you inspire your child to become more active, and to be more energetic with a view to improving their general fitness?

Sports are one of the easiest avenues for encouraging kids into exercise. For the youngest of kids, it may be difficult to find facilities that offer any degree of specialized training. At this stage, general fitness work, games and exercises will be used to introduce younger players to the games they may eventually choose to play competitively. Aside from the game itself, sports are great hobbies for kids, and can provide an avenue for ongoing fitness into adult life. And if you find the right sport, most kids need very little encouragement to become hooked.

From an early age, parents should take their children on walks along the beach, or into the woods. These types of outdoor experiences are highly educational, and can inspire a passion for being in the open air. This all bodes well for the fitness of your child. Those kids that have a more outdoor disposition tend to be more energetic and fitter than those that devote their formative years exclusively to video games and TV.

childhood workout exercisesRegardless of the age of your children, it rests with you to demonstrate how your child should live. There is no better way of educating a child than leading by example, and this means you need to personally practice what you preach. Entrenching exercise and physical activity as part of the family routine can help ensure children are constantly thinking about their fitness and their health. The Little Gymspan even makes it possible for younger kids to get involved. This is a good habit to establish early on, before a child begins to put on excess weight from an overly inactive lifestyle.

The exercise your children do today will have benefits that last a lifetime, no matter if they are 2 or 22 years old. Fitness is cumulative, and it is easier to stay fit than to get fit. Giving your child access to outlets for exercise and strenuous activity is healthy from a physical and emotional perspective. Participating in sport can teach vital life-lessons about discipline, achieving success and handling failure. These are all positive factors in becoming a healthy, happy adult, which is for any parent the obvious end goal.


Some tips to avoid problems on social networks

Here’s some tips for children:

  1. Never give out your full name or physical address. The less information about you on social networks the better.
  2. Ensure that you use the maximum amount of privacy and only invite/accept friends that you actually know in the real world.
  3. When someone posts a nasty comment on your social networking profile, delete it and remove/block them so they cannot do it again.
  4. When someone talks to you about sexually explicit topics, stop talking and block them.
  5. Tell your parents about anything unusual so they can help you deal with it.

Here’s some tips for parents:

  1. Sit with your child and ask them to show you around the social networks they use.
  2. Talk to your child about posting to many photos on the social networking sites because this puts them at greater risk from predators.
  3. Encourage your children to talk openly about anyone who is stalking or harassing them online so you can help them through it.
  4. Place limits on the amount of time you child spend on the Internet e.g. between 8am-8pm during the week or limited airtime on cellphones.
  5. Use technology as a source of conversation over the dinner table to show your children you are interested in their world.
  6. Don’t let technology be a substitute for parenting or experience. Spend time with your children doing other activities so they can learn how to do them and in the process bond with you.
  7. Do your best to avoid violent computer games for your children because this conditions them to become desensitised to the same acts in the real world.

Ramon Thomas is a available for a motivational talk on the psychology of technology and social media for parents, teachers and learners.



How to deal with increased abuse of MXit or Facebook

Recent media reports indicate another spike in MXit related incidents ranging from teen abductions to children spreading pornography. On the business side MXit is entering online payments and mobile banking arena and will probably continue it’s relationship with MNET Idols reality TV show facilitating voting for the contestants. Families, schools and communities have always been up in arms over the last three years. In my public talks to schools and church groups I have tried my best to explain both the pro’s and the con’s to my audiences.

When children get access to technology like cellphones or the Internet at an early age, they often do so without any guidelines. So it becomes very important for parents to understand what those guidelines are and to adopt them from an early age. If not they run the risk of these online incidents that take place on MXit or Facebook for that matter to spill over into their daily lives. The incidents appear to be on the increase because MXit user base has continued to grow and now has over 11 million registered users. The number of international users are also on the increase, which wides the possibilities for abuse from people in other countries with your children in South Africa.

Unlike computers there is no software available to block or track what people do on cellphones. Each make of a cellphone practically runs a different operating system, which makes it difficult for software developers to create these software so freely available on the Internet for PC users. Both Vodacom and MTN have some limited mechanism for parental control. In all cases I encourage parents to install those options where avaialable. Please remember it will not block or control what children can do on MXit. The MXit platform exists outside of these parent control measures. So it sounds like you’re back to square one.

What parents can do is focus on open and regular dialogue with your children. All I’m saying is the basics of parenting. One specific thing I encourage parents to do is to begin using MXit themselves. In the first place it begins to demystify the technology for the parents themselves and it also shows the kids that parents are willing or able to learn and understand.  In many cases I believe children are very open to showing their family members how to benefit from these fun technologies. In most cases the approach from the parents is one of control because of a lack of understanding.

Anyway here’s some basic guidelines to follow from MSNBC slightly adapted.

Teach your children to:
# Think before they click: With whom are they chatting (MXit) or e-mailing (Facebook), what are they saying and how are they saying it? Will the person on the other end know they are joking?
# Walk away from the computer or put the cellphone down and “Take 5” before responding to something that upsets them online
# Avoid spreading rumours, assisting in cyberbullying or sharing private communications online.
# Follow the golden rule of cyberspace: Don’t do anything online that you wouldn’t do in real life!

Follow responsible safety practices yourself on your computer:
# Install spyware and adware blocking software on your computer
# Make sure you have a working firewall on your computer
# Install anti-virus software and update it regularly
# Take advantage of spam-blocking tools offered by your Internet provider or e-mail software


Interview on Chai FM, Jewish community radio station

[NB! I often receive phone calls or emails from people thinking this website is Chai FM. Please contact them directly via their websitebecause I was only a guest on the radio station a few times.]

Today I received an invitation to do my first interview with this new Jewish community radio station next week 10, Tuesday, 23 December 2008. We will be discussing what technology is popular among children, why it’s so popular and coping strategies for Jewish parents and families in general. The big take away for me learning about diverse South African groups is how strong families are in some and weak in others.

While doing my own background research I came across this promo video for the brand new Chai 101.9 FM Johannesburg, South Africa, a 24 hour a day Jewish radio station!

“Chai Fm is a Jewish community radio station broadcasting to the greater Johannesburg area on 101.9fm. The station is talk format with 20% Jewish music. Programming is determined by community research and reflects the diverse views of the community. Based on “Tools for Life”, Chai Fm provides programming that is informative, educational, entertaining and relevant to the community.

The objectives of Chai FM are to: Unite the Jewish community, to build the connection between the community and the land of Israel, to reflect ourselves to ourselves and to provide programming that is relevant, informative, intelligent, honest, engaging, reflects a diversity of views and is entertaining.

Chai FM is for all the Jews of Johannesburg, irrespective of observance levels, age, gender, race or financial status.

“The station aims to provide a platform for debate and a diversity of opinion” says Kathy Kaler, a director of Chai FM. She adds: “It’s so easy to think that our communities are insular and we can forget we are each part of a greater “whole”.

Chai FM was granted a community broadcasting licence in June 2007 and will begin broadcasting in September 2008.

Source: Teruah blog.


First part of interview with Damaria Senne

Damaria Senne journalist, children's authorDamaria Senne, a journalist at ITWeb, recently asked me to do a lengthy and very detailed interview about online and mobile trends and the impact on children for her parenting blog. You can read part 1 of the interview here.

Some of the important things I mentioned are as follows ** 2014 updates **

  1. There is a big gap between what parents think children do online, and what they really do, especially because mobile phones seem harmless.
  2. MXit was the fastest growing social network, mobile app in 2007 but it pales in comparison to Facebook or Whatsapp, which are both much easier to use.
  3. Trend 1 – Accelerated development: Dr Suagta Mitra confirmed my prediction with his TED Prize speech on self organised learning environments for children. It is the most important application of technology to learning, especially in the primary stages of life for parents to understand.
  4. Trend 2 – Lack of Social Skills: The severity of this cannot be underestimated. Teenagers seems helpless without their mobile phones, and most dare not initiate contact with a stranger let alone a someone from opposite sex.
  5. Trend 3 – User generated content: This continues to explore. Even though content is king, the quality drops in proportion to the amount produced. There’s also a plethora of apps that generated variations or produce remixes of your content from Twitter, etc.
  6. Privacy is still the #1 issue. The lack of understand is reinforced by the ignorance of users, customers and everyone who keeps buying into the hype of the latest, the newest, the next upgrade. Recommended watching: Privacy is dead – Get over it by Steven Rambam/

Study reveals more then 40% children in US exposed to Pornography

A shocking study has revealed that almost half of all children in America between 10 and 17 years old have been exposed to pornography. About 80% of those exposed pornography was displayed during unrelated searches. Filtering software does reduce the risk of unwanted exposure. The full study is being published in the February edition of Paediatrics. Go here to read the full article on Bloomberg.
In a unrelated incident a married Hong Kong man was caught with over 27,000 child pornography pictures here.


Parents Guide to MXit available today

MXit cellphone chat softwareThe Parents Guide to MXit is now available from today. This concise guide is made available at no cost to all concerned parents or educators, who may have sleepless nights about children using MXit, the popular chat application that enables communication on cell phones at the fraction of SMS costs.

Ramon Thomas, online behaviour expert at NETucation, one of South Africa’s leading online research organisations, produced this guide after a spate of negative publicity and shocking incident, since being interviewed about this topic on Cape Talk/702 in early September 2006.

“This guide explains MXit in plain and simple English for parents and teachers,” says Thomas. “Once you understand MXit it very important to note the impact on your relationship with your child, the possibility and probability of addiction and abuse.”

MXit Lifestyle (Pty) Ltd, the company who created the MXit application, states the current growth is about 10,000 new users per day. Latest stats indicate 385,000 users between 12-17 and 462,000 users between 18-25. After being released in late 2005, MXit has broken through the 2 million subscriber base in record time. And is the fastest growing cellphone application in South African history. As we approach the festive season when SMS volumes normally spike, MXit usage, and subscribers should continue to increase as rapid pace.

“Parent’s must realise this phenomenon is practically unstoppable,” says Dr Helgo Schomer, UCT academic and registered psychologist who runs the Institute of Behavioural Health in Cape Town. He further explains that in virtual environments like MXit, people have no responsibility to adhere to acceptable social etiquette. Rumours can be spread, people can create fake identities, and there is no retribution or consequences to face up to.

The most important aspects covered in the guide is this:

  1. How Cellphone/MXit impacts on family relationships
  2. Coping with Cellphone/MXit Addiction/Abuse
  3. Installing and using MXit on your phone
  4. Navigating the MXit environment
  5. Chat room lingo

Patrick Hoare, founder of Kids Online, says, “Parents should not take away their children’s cellphones because it may give rise to cellphones being used in secret.” Parents normally teach us not to talk to strangers, yet we do that online. Do not accept invitations to chat privately from strangers on MXit.

Its easy to get your copy of Parents Guide to MXit, just click here to download it right now. And spread the word by pointing people to this website.

Ramon Thomas, is available for public talks at schools, churches or non-profit organisations. Contact our office for all bookings.