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Family

Dad shares what happens when you give your child books instead of a smartphone

The key to fostering healthy habits in children is to be wholly present and reject the “pressures of convenience”

via Armando Hart (used with permission)

Armando Hart and his son, Raya.

One of the most pressing dilemmas for parents these days is how much screen time they should allow their children. Research published by the Mayo Clinic shows that excessive screen time can lead to obesity, disrupted sleep, behavioral issues, poor academic performance, exposure to violence and a significant reduction in playtime.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting screen time to 1 to 2 hours daily for children over 2. But American children spend far more time in front of screens than that and the situation is only worsening.

Before the pandemic, kids between the ages of 4 and 12 spent an average of 4.4 hours a day looking at screens, but since 2020, the average child’s daily screen time has increased by 1.75 hours.


A father in Long Beach, California, is getting some love for his TikTok video sharing what happens when you give your kid books instead of an iPhone. Armando Hart posted a video showing his 10-year-old son, Raya, reading a book in the back of a car and it’s been seen over 8 million times.

"Give them books instead of phones when they are little and this is the result," the caption reads. "Thank me later."

We’re so blessed with our son Raya. I think he’s read more books than I have.

@lifeinmotion08

We’re so blessed with our son Raya. I think he’s read more books than I have. #Books #Read #Fyp

Hart and his wife started reading to their son every night before bedtime, hoping to instill a love for books. "It was all about leading by example and creating a nurturing environment where reading was celebrated," Hart told Newsweek. These days, Raya is an avid reader who enjoys just about anything.

“My son likes novels, fiction, nonfiction, and realistic fiction,” Hart told Upworthy. “He also likes informative content, such as reading the almanac and other informative magazines. He loves to build, cook from recipes, and make art.”

For Hart, reading is all about creating a sense of balance in his son’s life.

“It's not about being against technology but about fostering a balanced approach that prioritizes meaningful experiences and hands-on learning,” he told Upworthy. “By instilling a love for reading, creativity, and exploration early on, we're equipping Raya with the skills and mindset he needs to thrive in an ever-changing world.”

Hart believes that the screen time discussion isn’t just about technology but a trend that goes deeper. “It speaks to a broader societal problem: our youth's lack of self-esteem, confidence and fundamental values. While screen time may exacerbate these issues, it is not the sole cause,” he told Upworthy.

“In contrast, physical activity, such as exercise, promotes joy and well-being. Spending hours scrolling on a phone can detract from genuine moments of happiness and fulfillment,” he continued. “Therefore, we must address the deeper underlying issues affecting our youth's mental and emotional health rather than solely attributing them to screen time.”

Hart believes the key to fostering healthy habits in children is to be wholly present and reject the “pressures of convenience” that encourage parental complacency.

“We prioritize quality time together, whether exploring nature, sharing meals with the best available foods, or engaging in meaningful conversations. In today's rapidly advancing technological world, staying grounded in our humanity and embodying integrity in everything we do is crucial,” he continued. “This means staying connected to our authentic selves and teaching our son the importance of honesty, kindness, and respect.”

Many people who carry extra weight on their bodies have stories to tell about problematic medical care. Maybe a medical issue was overlooked because of their weight. Perhaps a doctor prescribed losing weight as a solution to an issue that had nothing to do with being fat.


In our society, fat is looked upon as a health hazard at best and a character flaw at worst. While evidence does point to obesity being a health risk factor, judgments about other people's extra pounds go far beyond concerns over health. Companies make billions of dollars off of perpetuating society's obsession with thinness, from diet pills to weight loss programs to plastic surgery, and fat jokes seem to be the final frontier of socially acceptable cruelty and marginalization.

This obsession with the size of people's bodies has consequences. People have no problem sounding off about health problems associated with obesity, but rarely do we hear people preach about about health consequences of the fear of obesity. Anorexia and bulimia come to mind, but there are also more nuanced tales of people facing medical neglect and abuse from others due to a pervasive fear of fatness. We're talking about illness and death in babies and children, all because of fatphobia.

RELATED: These 3 stories show how we're subconsciously teaching children to be fatphobic.

In a post on Facebook shared by Dadmin, a series of screenshots of Reddit stories illustrating how fatphobia can lead to dire health problems. Sometimes those problems are even exacerbated by healthcare workers themselves.

One person told the story of a substitute at a daycare where she worked questioning why a large baby needed to take a bottle. A coworker replied, "That's where all her nutrients are. She needs the nutrients and the water." The substitute replied, "But she's so fat. She doesn't need it." All babies need to eat regularly, and all babies's bodies are different. (For example, my own babies were super roly-poly, and all they had was breastmilk their first 10 months or so. My best friend's baby, also exclusively breastfeed, ate far more frequently than mine and was super skinny.)

As the poster pointed out, "Thin privilege is a small, pretty baby getting better childcare because the caretaker doesn't think she's too fat to be allowed to eat."

Dadmin/Facebook

Another person wrote about their cousin who had her kids taken away because she was starving her baby. Worried about her infant becoming "too fat," she only fed her one bottle of skim milk a day. "I don't want her growing up fat," she said. Even after having her kids removed for medical neglect, she still maintained that the doctors were wrong and she was right. According to the post, she said, "They just want fat kids so they can keep employed treating them for all those diseases that being fat causes."

Dadmin/Facebook

Other people chimed in with similar stories of babies being starved or evaluated as overweight.

"A parent brought in their six month old baby who was having breathing issues and kept getting sick," one person wrote. "The parent was asked if the baby was eating regularly and the parents straight up told the doctor that they only feed the baby once a day...They even had the nerve to say because they didn't want the baby to get fat. People like this are real. They would rather have a dead baby than a fat one."

Another shared the story of their exclusively breastfed 10-month-old being in the 99th percentile and the nurse saying, "He is at risk for obesity. You may want to keep an eye on that." She said later on, this same child measured off the charts but the doctor said at least he was in proportion. Because they can't control their "weight talk," which research shows is potentially harmful to children, this mother said she no longer allows doctors to weigh her kids unless it's medically necessary. (And it sometimes is. Medication dosages are often determined by height and weight, for example.)

Dadmin/Facebook

Another person wrote about how her mother had her dieting with her from the time she was 11, worried she was going to "get huge." She fed her less than 600 calories per day and grounded her when she found out her friends were bringing her lunches. She ended up in the ER and has struggled since with anorexia. "Please don't starve your fucking children," she wrote.

RELATED: A viral and heartbreaking hashtag proves body-shaming starts early for women.

As another user wrote, "Fatphobia is real and it kills."

Dadmin/Facebook

Sometimes healthcare providers think every health issue is weight-related, which can result in misdiagnosis.

One person shared a story of a college friend who had been having trouble breathing. The doctor told her to lose weight. Time and again over several years, she returned to the doctor with the same breathing problem, telling them she was dieting but couldn't exercise because of the breathing issue. It turned out she had a tumor on her lungs that wasn't caught. She died at age 25, three months after it was finally diagnosed.

Dadmin/Facebook

Yet another user shared a story of her little sister feeling fatigued and dizzy, getting nauseated at the sight of food, and suffering from abdominal pain at nine years old. The ER doctor dismissed it saying she was fat and probably just ate too many burgers. Her mom questioned the diagnosis and took her to another doctor who also told her that the girl was "just fat."

The pain got worse, the girl's skin began to yellow. A third ER visit revealed she had life-threatening hepatitis, which took a year to recover from. "If it weren't for my mother, fatphobia would have killed her," the person wrote.

Dadmin/Facebook

Clearly, some of these stories are extreme, and one must take Reddit stories with a grain of skepticism. But stories like this abound across social media.

And there is more than just anecdotal evidence that prejudice against fat people can cause real medical harm.

A 2015 Lancet study found that doctors take less time with obese patients and are more reluctant to screen them for other health issues. It also found that healthcare workers tend to stereotype obese people as less likely to follow medical advice and stick to medications.

A 2017 review of research from the American Psychological Association also found that medical discrimination based on people's size is a real issue, and obese patients are more likely to have undiagnosed medical issues:

"In one study of over 300 autopsy reports, obese patients were 1.65 times more likely than others to have significant undiagnosed medical conditions (e.g., endocarditis, ischemic bowel disease or lung carcinoma), indicating misdiagnosis or inadequate access to health care."

When societal judgments on weight start affecting people's medical care, we have a problem. And it can't only be fat people battling the issue—it's up to all of us to fight size bias and tackle the myriad messages we see every day that fat people are less than.

Dadmin/Facebook

As one Reddit user said, "I'd really like my thin followers to reblog this if you can. Fat people are already here for each other. We need you guys to help us out too. This is something I never see anyone actually talking about in-depth, and it's disappointing."

Let's talk about it now, and do what we can to eliminate fatphobia before it does more harm than it already has.

Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

There's a difference between dieting and being healthy, and often times, overattention to what you consume can lead to disordered eating. Eating disorders are dangerous and can affect anyone, but they're especially concerning in adolescents. Which is why WW (formerly Weight Watchers) is facing intense criticism for its new app, Kurbo, targeted toward kids ages eight to 17.

The app uses a traffic light system to tell kids which foods are a "green light" and can be eaten as much as they want, which foods are a "yellow light" and should be consumed with caution, and which "red light" foods they should probably avoid.

It seems like a simple system to teach kids what's good for them and what's not, but it regulates kids' diets in an unhealthy way. Gaining weight is a normal, healthy part of child development. Putting on a few pounds means your body is doing what it's supposed to do. While the app classifies foods with too much fat or calories as "red," children need to consume some of these foods to develop their brain.

WW is calling the app "common sense." As Gary Foster, the chief science officer of WW, puts it, items in the red foods category "aren't foods that should be encouraged in kids' diets, but they also shouldn't be vilified or demonized, and there has to be a system that's simple and science-based that highlights that so everyone in the family can understand."


RELATED: Why you should stop complimenting people for being 'tiny'

But nutritionists are concerned Kurbo will promote an unhealthy relationship with food. "This doesn't teach 'healthy eating.' It teaches restricted eating. It teaches kids that some foods are good, but most are bad, as kids are very literal in their thinking. It sets kids up for a battle between their brain and growing bodies. It perpetuates disordered eating, thinking and behavior that may have lifelong implications in vulnerable populations," Megan McNamee of Feeding Littles wrote on Facebook. McNamee grew up in a Weight Watchers house and feels it gave her an unhealthy relationship with food.

The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) also expressed concerns over Kurbo: "While we acknowledge the good intentions of researchers working to develop programs to keep children healthy, we must point out the serious risks associated with an app that requires kids to track everything they eat and self-report their weight and behaviors. We encourage parents who may be considering this app for their children – and adolescents thinking of using it themselves – to seriously consider the potential risks," the organization said in a statement.

The app also encourages family participation, however it can put children in a position where they're dieting to please their parents. On top of that, studies have shown parents of overweight children already know which foods are good or bad for their kids.

While the Kurbo app in its current state is problematic, some experts argue that it's a step in the right direction toward helping curb childhood obesity. According to Dr. Fatima Cody Stanford, who specializes in obesity medicine, "Fourteen million children in the United States actually have the disease of obesity, and this tool might be one that we should consider with some modifications for this patient population."

RELATED: Forever 21 facing backlash from plus-size customers who received diet bars with their online orders

However, she argues that if children are indeed using the app as a means to maintain or achieve a healthy weight, parents and possibly even medical professionals need to be involved.

"I do think using a medical professional would be helpful, but I really think that the parents really have some shared ownership here, right? So they're going to be the ones that really need to be on the ground monitoring what's going on with their children and this application if they're - if this is indeed a strategy that they take," she told NPR.

"We need to be thoughtful when you're considering using an application of this sort - and the likelihood that persons that might not struggle with obesity might utilize this to further curb their intake. And that would lead to issues like anorexia nervosa," she added.

My heart sunk in such a familiar way when I first learned about "Fat Chance."

The TLC show explores the weight loss journeys of people looking to fall in love. “Why would someone love me, looking like this?” one contestant asks, staring at her soft body in a full-length mirror.

Wherever we go, someone is constantly asserting the life of loneliness, isolation, and lovelessness to which fat people are doomed. It is heartbreaking and it is false.


I think about the technicolor loves I have had, the partners who have loved and wanted me. I think about the fat people I have fallen for and the fat friends and family who are happily married, hooking up, falling in love, and calling affection into their lives.

Unlovable is ubiquitous and deeply untrue. After all, if fat people were truly impossible to love, two-thirds of the country would be condemned to a life of solitude and longing. But unlovable has gained so much momentum that it has taken on a life of its own, a self-fulfilling prophecy that shapes the thinking of my friends and family, showing up jagged and sharp in their tender mouths.

Even friends who are critical about popular depictions of fat people have a hard time. When we talk about "Fat Chance," their answers are startlingly similar. One after another, upon seeing the contestants: "I mean, look at her, she’s not even that fat."

There it is, unlovable, its toothy serrated blade cutting as deep as ever.

I know that’s not what they intend to say. They mean the world has gone haywire if this woman is considered fat. They mean an impossible standard has been set if a handsome, broad-shouldered man feels like he’s too fat. They are startled seeing bodies that look so much like theirs being discussed as irredeemably, unlovably fat.

It’s a common response to seeing fat-shaming of all kinds.

She’s not that fat. Because if she is, they might be too. They are awakened to a new level of self-consciousness, wondering if maybe they should’ve felt even more ashamed all this time. In that moment, they disappear into themselves, consumed by a new depth of surprise and shame.

She’s not even that fat.

But I am always that fat. When strangers bring up cartoonish numbers — I mean, would being fat be OK if she was 300 pounds? — I am their exaggerated example. I am the person they dread sitting next to on the plane, the one who avoids eye contact with strangers for fear of the slurs that follow, the one who orders salads in public in hope of being spared judgment, comment, or shaming. I have always been that fat. I have always been fair game.

She’s not even that fat. But they’d understand if they were saying it about me. She’s not deserving of such scorn, but there’s someone who is. There’s someone who’s that fat. There’s me.

“I mean, I know you think you know what you’re seeing, but I’m pretty fat,” you said, fixing your lipstick and adjusting your size-10 dress in a department store bathroom mirror. Behind you, my soft body, size 26, is a sharp contrast.

I furrow my brow and again, my heart sinks. You, willowy and lithe. You, cheekbones and clavicle. You, pretty fat. But, dear friend, you are never that fat.

I turn this moment over in my head, examining it carefully. It leaves me with such a dull ache of grief. Later that night, I finally find the words for what I wanted to say to you.

I wanted to tell you that your identity is important.

I believe that you see yourself as pretty fat, and I know that your identity matters to you just as much as mine matters to me. The way you see yourself shapes how you engage with the world around you. It determines when and how you feel seen, when and how you feel erased. You describe it precisely, with words you cradle close to your heart. It is a locket that warms with your body, a keepsake to remind you who you are and where you stand in the world.

Your identity matters deeply. So do perception and experience — how others see you and how they treat you as a result. Your identity shapes how you engage with the world; perception determines how the world reacts to you. This, dear friend, is where our experiences differ. You feel pretty fat. I am seen as that fat.

Image from iStock.

Because I’m seen as that fat, I’m treated with all the dismissal and contempt that people who are that fat deserve. People who are that fat get turned away from job interviews, promotions, even doctor offices. Because I am that fat, a nurse takes my blood pressure four times before telling me that my low blood pressure “can’t be right — not for an obese patient.” You know you feel pretty fat, but cashiers don’t gawk when you walk into a buffet restaurant, and acquaintances don’t joke about ending up on a blind date with someone like you.

You see yourself as fat, and that matters. But the world around you doesn’t know how you see yourself. They only see the body in front of them, and that body isn’t even that fat.

I see your identity. And I need you to see my experience.

Both of these moments, with good friends whom I love and trust, have stayed with me. These friends are thoughtful, incisive, committed to doing better by fat people. And in both cases, their values were betrayed, caught in an undertow of dismissing fat people.

They never meant to, but both of them made it clear that some bodies are acceptable, and others aren’t.

Many of us are comfortable saying that some fat bodies are OK. Those fat bodies are almost always exceptional star athletes or stunning models. The kind of bodies you see alongside their accomplishments and, astonished, utter, "I never would’ve guessed." The kind of bodies that check every other box: staggering beauty, visible markers of health, physical ability, youth. Women must have hourglass figures; men must have broad shoulders and barrel chests. No one can “look obese.” Yes, fat bodies are OK, but only if they are immaculate in every other way and only if we can see their perfection. Fat bodies are best when they don’t look fat at all.

She’s not even that fat and I’m pretty fat are harsh reminders of that line. I never know just where it is, but I know I am always on the outside of it. I have never been an acceptable kind of fat. Those who are acceptable, those who are embraced, are precious few and far between. Most of us fail at being the right kind of fat.

That’s why any acceptance of fat people that expands our standards to a point is unacceptable. I do not want to be accepted into a beauty standard that has betrayed me. I do not want my acceptance to rely on someone else’s rejection.

Everyone — yes, everyone — deserves respect in the world. No one — not one person — deserves to be harassed, discriminated against, disrespected, or hurt just because of the size or shape of their body. It doesn’t matter if you think they could change their body. It doesn’t matter if you’re right. All of us deserve safety and all of us deserve love.

There will be bodies that you find difficult to embrace.

The fattest person in the movie theater, daring to eat popcorn. The person you clock as transgender at the grocery store. The person with a visible disability, who needs you to give up your seat on the bus. There will be me, a person who is that fat. This is where the work gets tough.

In order to make room for all of us, you will have to believe to your bones that they deserve everything you have.Not some of them. Not the most beautiful ones or the most athletic ones. Not up to a certain size or just if they’re nice to you or just the ones you think are cute.

Dignity is not earned. Safety is not a reward. None of us should have to overcome our bodies just to be safe, to be loved, to be treated like anyone else. Safety, acceptance, and love are for all of us. Not just the ones we’re comfortable with. Not just the ones who aren’t that fat.