Raising children in a world full of technology: Strategies to limit screen time
Technology is everywhere! I use it daily and thanks to technology you are reading this. It is however, changing things for our children and it may not be for the better.
Studies have been done in recent years about the impact of technology on the brain and the ways in which technology can alter our brains. Now imagine we are a young child with a developing brain, what could the long term effects be? There are already studies showing the negative impact on physical and mental health associated with the use of technolgy (the physical being a result of being stagnant).
The most striking thing to me is what children are missing out on when they have their eyes glued to a screen. Children learn through movement, touch, their senses, and interacting with the world. Most of these are taken away when we engage on activities through our tablets or television. I often wonder what the upcoming generation will look like as adults and how much of our world may change as a result of this.
We can't avoid technology completely. I am well aware that the world is changing and that our children will participate in it at some point. I do however, feel that we can shield them from it, limit it, and allow their brains to develop as they are intended to. It's really about finding a balance. Here are some suggestions that may help achieve balance:
1) Be aware of your own use of technology: If you are on the phone or computer all of the time, this is what is being modeled to your child. Try limiting your use of technology around your children and engage in other activities with them.
2) Use the screen sparingly. Try to have your children engage in other activities. Have them go outside if possible. Let them be bored. This is OK. We so often see this as a problem but boredom is something that we can all experience from time to time. We do not need to be constantly entertained. I see children out and about with their parents holding a phone while they sit in their stroller. When I was a child that is what we did when we were bored....went out for a walk. They are passing so many amazing things to look at and learn about, and never even see it. They are missing learning opportunities and opportunities to connect with their parents and the world.
3) Have technology free time at home for everyone. This is a time when everyone puts away the phone and tablet. The TV is off. Some families choose technology free days. I love this. Connect as a family, get out of the house, play games, and have fun.
4) Look for screen free options for education and entertainment. I cringe when I see apps on phones targeted to babies. I just don't understand why. Does it make a parent's life easier sometimes? Yes. But at what cost? There are so many educational materials through apps that parents feel like they are doing their child a service by getting these. I am not so sure. I think going outside, exploring, learning through interacting with the world is healthier and more effective. There are non screen ways to promote more structured learning like workbooks or educational games.
5) Use technology with intention. Instead of just plugging in for no reason or out of boredom. During your child's approved screen time encourage them to watch something they were really excited about or maybe use social media to connect with a friend. Maybe they are researching a topic of interest. Make the use of technology purposeful.
I know that some of these may feel like they make your life harder. They will temporarily. I have also placed my kids in front of a TV so that I could get dinner ready. It happens. Don't beat yourself up about it, just be aware of how much screen time they are getting and try a different option first. It takes some time and effort on your part but it will benefit your child in the long run. I have spent many dinners out, working hard to keep my kids sitting and entertained at a restaurant while we wait for our food. But I know that during that dinner we connected, played games, talked ,learned, and interacted with the world around us.
You have nothing to lose by trying to limit technology. Once you get over the initial hurdle it will become easier and less of a struggle. You may even notice positive changes with yourself as a result.
Claudia Glassman is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Registered Play Therapist, and Parenting Coach who offers one on one coaching services. Claudia is passionate about helping parents find joy and gain confidence in their parenting abilities. Her vision is to share her knowledge and bring awareness to the importance of the relationship that we have with our children.