It’s no secret that our sons and daughters are digital natives. They are the first generation of kids who cannot remember a time before wireless Internet, Smart devices and digital gadgets that don’t require a massive desk or mess of wires to operate. While these advancements have opened our children up to a world of information and means of communication, they have also flooded our homes and schools with screens. Unfortunately, initial research is showing that too much time in front of screens may cause serious behavioral, physical and emotional consequences to develop.
Too Much of a Good Thing?
It used to be that in our homes the only screens that could be found was a television in our family’s living room. Fast forward a decade or two and now we can find countless screens in every room of our homes. We have multiple television sets, computers, tablets, Smartphones, handheld gaming systems, laptops and more. This has led to a sharp increase in the amount of time our boys and girls are spending in front of some kind of screen.
Whether it is texting, watching a movie, playing a video game or researching their homework, the average teen spends nine hours a day consuming media in some form. If this isn’t alarming enough, children under the age of 8 spend close to two and a half hours in front of a screen. We also need to consider almost one third of toddlers under the age of 2 even have a T.V. set in their rooms.
The Downside of Too Much Technology on Kids
Screens and devices are doing more to our children than just occupying their time. In fact, the fast paced stimuli of today’s technology can change the hard-wiring of our kids’ brains, which affects a variety of life skills, such as: patience, school performance, ability to work, read emotional cues, how to handle downtime and so much more.
Too much screen time has also been linked to an increase in stress, anxiety and depression levels. This can happen for many reasons, but the consensus is there is a strong correlation between the higher number of hours a child uses screens and an uptick in stress. And, we all know that technology has the potential to expose our sons and daughters to inappropriate and dangerous content.
Besides emotional health, all of this connectivity is linked to a whole slew of physical medical conditions. These conditions include everything from eye strain, blurred vision, carpal tunnel syndrome, texting thumb, elbow problems and even neck pains. To top it all off, we need to consider how this sedentary lifestyle is affecting a child’s activity levels, which can lead to weight gain and the health risks that accompany obesity.
Helping Children Strike a Balance Between Screens
Obviously, screens do have a time and place in our lives. However, we can pretty much agree that our sons and daughters spend way too much time looking at them. If left unchecked, we are setting our boys and girls up for a bleak future. Thankfully, with some proactive parenting and a few mindful choices we can help our kids strike a healthy balance with technology.
Check out the following digital detox tips:
- Limit screens to common living areas. Find balance with technology by keeping devices in living rooms, dens, game rooms, etc. Power down all electronics during family dinners and activities, and exile devices from bedrooms. This will provide kids much needed downtime from the constant connectivity screens provide.
- Restrict the amount of data available on Smartphones and other technologies. This will ensure kids are more deliberate with their usage by keeping overuse in check.
- Reconnect as a family. Provide fun alternatives to occupy their time by doing things together.
- Develop a family technology contract. Sit down together and outline all expectations and consequences for using screens.
- Implement a technology curfew. At a set time every night, power down all screens.
- Playing outdoors, completing chores, reading, etc. will allow kids to earn screen time. This will help kids strike a balance between screens and the other interests in their lives.
- Teach children how to relax. Due to the strong association of stress and anxiety with too much screen time, make sure kids have healthy ways to unwind. Help them learn breathing techniques, meditation tricks and more.
- Begin an ongoing discussion about balancing technology in our lives. Honestly address the role technology should play in our lives to empower kids so they can make smart choices about how to embrace screen time.
How does your family help kids strike a balance between screens or take a digital detox?
This article originally appeared here.