While there’s always the argument for a totally screen-free childhood, it’s not always conducive to modern life and education. When used in moderation, iPads, computers, and even television can be great tools for learning, entertainment, and development. However, research tells us that kids who overuse electronics are more disrespectful, sleep less, become numb to violence, are more aggressive, more prone to obesity, experience a higher rate of cyberbullying and are more likely to have emotional, social and attention problems. So how do you find a healthy balance when your children are constantly surrounded by these distractions?
A common term for this solution is taking a “digital detox”. The word detox is really short for detoxification, which basically means to find a way to overcome a physical or psychological dependence on something. In this case, the dependence is on electronics. In order to achieve this, a good goal would be to unplug from tech on a short-term basis, which will enable you to spend more time focusing on what is important.
Here are some steps you can take to manage your family’s use of media:
Set a Good Example:
Kids learn more by observing your behavior rather than listening to what you have to say. Make rules about when it is appropriate and inappropriate to have a device active (ie. no electronics at the dinner table, silencing your phone during family conversations). This will send a strong message that being connected with your family comes first, and everything else can wait until a later time. Kids function well within boundaries, and if you have rules in place, it’s easier to respond calmly to future requests for tech use during these breaks.
Set A Time Limit:
Establish a maximum time your kids are allowed to spend on their electronic devices. Restricting the time is so important to prevent an unhealthy dependence and potential addiction to technology. Talk to your children about why you are limiting their time and let them know that you are not doing it to be mean, but rather it is because you care for their well-being. Kids just want explanations, and this is a good chance to discuss the “why”. Talk about mental health and the science behind screens. Let them know it is not healthy to create bad habits and that you want them to thrive and have a happy life. Consistency is key here too, so be sure you don’t give in to temptation yourself by breaking the rules, and don’t let them persuade you to let them do the same. Being consistent in sticking with the rules will also leave your kids feeling they can trust you.
Come up with a plan as to where electronics are off-limits within the house. There should be rooms that are dedicated to quiet enjoyment, where one knows they can go and be free from distractions. The same goes for certain periods throughout the day. For example, electronics should be removed from the bedrooms prior to bedtime. A child’s ability to think, verbalize, memorize, understand and learn depends on how much sleep they get at night. Keeping the technology out of their bedroom at night can ensure they don’t disrupt their body’s natural rhythms and sleep cycle.
Set aside one full day during the week or on the weekend that is dedicated to activities that don’t involve electronics. Get creative and come up with fun activities like family game day, arts and crafts, or even send them on a photo adventure day with their own cameras. Have each member of the family select an activity or plan a full day of their choice, so that they feel like they are contributing to the cause. This will also allow you to have something to look forward to once a week.
Get Outside & Get Moving:
Too much screen time and minds are not the only thing that go sluggish. Occupy your families’ minds and bodies with adventures outside and show them that staying healthy can be fun. Get them interested in the beauties of the real world by taking a hike up a mountain, swimming in a lake, planning an outdoor picnic in your favorite park, or even camping outside under the stars. You can even plan something closer to home by playing “old school” games like Simon Says or Red Light Green Light in your own backyard. Anything to get your family outside of the house and away from electronics which will in turn make everyone a little happier and healthier.