Picture: Flickr
What would you like first - the good or the bad news?

Well, the good news is that the people of South Africa are a fairly well-balanced lot - give or take a couple of million maladjusted reprobates who let our nation down.

On the whole, it turns out the majority of Mzansis have fairly healthy habits.

According to an online study by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of SA, almost half of our 56 million citizens refrain from drinking alcohol on a weekday. (Why are you looking at me with that silly smirk on your face?)

In addition, the majority of us are non-smokers.

The bad news is that many South Africans don’t make good parents simply because we exercise very little if any control over how our kids spend their time.

Because our children are so addicted to their smartphones, tablets and other techno devices, they don’t spend enough time outdoors.

And, says the Global Outreach Foundation, this is detrimental to their health.

These are the depressing facts. Our children now spend far less time outside of the classroom, with 12% of primary school pupils spending less than 30 minutes on playtime and 65% of schools having less than an hour of playtime a day.

Yet common criminals serving time in prison get a prescribed full hour of outdoor relaxation time every single day.

I normally detest people talking about the time when they were young, but if you spare me the indulgence, things were very different in my days as a kid.

My best mornings were spent hitching rides on sugar cane trucks to get to Stanger beach where my friends and I would frolic on the sand dunes and in the waves with merriment and abandon.

At the sound of the final bell after classes, we would gravitate to the open sport fields for our daily oxygen and energy fix.

But the best came in the evenings after supper when siblings would dash on to the lawn, lie on the grass and tell stories about the twinkling stars in the sky.

When last has your child had a chance to look up at the wondrous sky?

The devil, I’m totally convinced, lies in those little monsters children carry around in the palm of their hands for almost eight hours every day.

Children are today learning how to use smartphones at a much younger age.

They have grown up in an era when cellphone use has become ingrained.

And parents carry a lot of the blame because they buy their kids expensive phones, pay for data packages and exercise little control, except to tell their children to regulate themselves.

A world-renowned family therapist described the addiction to cellphones in this way.

“There is definitely something addictive to the ping of a text and the scrolling counter telling us how much others ‘like’ us.

“It’s made us all (children and adults) into gamblers, sitting in our bedrooms just like slot players sit in windowless casinos, forgetting the time of day, addicted to the next spin and the possibilities it brings.”

Isn’t it about time you told your kids to get out of the house?