It’s just like riding a bike.
By Lana Turnbull
Ever wonder why the statement “it’s like riding a bike” is synonymous with something that once learned you will never forget? It makes perfect sense, really. Learning to ride a bike is the first non-essential skill we master that not only ushers in a sense of independence and freedom, it’s also a life-changing right of passage. That’s heady stuff, not something we are likely to forget. For parents, it’s one of the milestones we anticipate with pleasure almost as soon as we discover a baby is on the way.
That first bike is tied up in the indelible memories of holidays gone by – of going to bed early so “Santa can come” and mysterious presents under the tree. It’s right up there with offerings of milk and cookies, of listening for sounds on the roof in the middle of the night, and drowsy-eyed mom’s and dad’s on Christmas morning. It’s no wonder that receiving that bright, shiny new bike is legendary for so many of us.
Oops… REWIND. After mentioning to my son, who is now thirty and has a child of his own, that I was writing this edition of Echoes about the “first bike phenomena,” he informed me of something very important…something that divides us generationally. For him, getting his first video game, ranked right up there, and possibly even came in ahead of the memory of his first bike. Wow! So what does this mean to society as we know it…to the state of the world and the future of mankind?! Well, after an overly dramatic flourish, I realized that the shift from actively riding a bike to passively, although passionately, playing a video game, is a pretty big thing for the state of health of a lot of kids today. Not that there aren’t loads of games that encourage physical activity, but the ones that don’t seem to dominate in terms of overall popularity.
So what’s a parent to do? Just as we once looked forward to guiding the seat of our child’s first bike while they got their balance and gained the confidence to go free-wheeling on their own, now it’s just as important for us to guide our children’s choices and use of video games.
In fact, both riding a bike and playing video games, like everything else in life, can have positive and negative consequences. While video games can improve hand/eye coordination, sharpened reflexes and concentration, they also can lead to obsessive behavior and anti-social tendencies, as well as contributing to the trend toward childhood inactivity and obesity. Bike riding, while it’s great exercise that gets kids out in the fresh air and can become a healthy life-long pastime, can also be dangerous without proper training, caution, and without the proper safety equipment and maintenance.
That brings us back to our role as parents. Whether there will be a new bike or the latest gaming system under the Christmas tree this year, it’s our job to make sure we are there with the steady hand on the back of the bike seat or the game control to guide our kids toward safe, healthy and balanced use. Whether they want it or not, that’s what our kids need from us. Whatever absorbs their time and interest will help mold the person they will become some day, so why not make it a family thing and enjoy it together. You’ll all benefit.
When it comes to video games, you might find the kids will be showing you the coolest moves to make it to the next game level…but with some practice after a while it will be, well…like riding a bike.