Over Exposed - to Screens
Are our kids over exposed? How, given the rapid "advancements" in technology to "make our lives better" does it seem like we might be doing more harm than good? With over 95% of kids in North America having access to devices, technology is now omnipresent in our kids lives.
At home, our kids are surrounded by on demand television shows, video consoles, devices and even traditional toys that are increasingly connected to interfaces (even Playdoh has kits that work with an interactive app!)
At school, kids work on iPads and Chromebooks, do projects on Google Classroom, work off an interactive white board and are constantly exposed to technology through learning media, interactive play (like Go Noodle) and educational games (like RAZ kids and Prodigy) that follow kids home.
Even if we are diligent in reducing the amount of sedentary, highly stimulating time our kids are exposed to on devices, they can find themselves playing and watching technology with their friends and the most well intentioned playdate or hangout.
Although it seems unreal, according to an CBS Interactive Inc. article kids and teens age 8 to 18 spend an average of more than seven hours a day looking at screens (August 2018). If our children are living in a time of hyper-exposure, what can we do as parents?
Talk to your kids about screen time. Developing an open dialogue with your kids about what they are watching, why they like it, how it makes them feel and sharing observations about them at play on their devices is a foundational part of establishing tech balance with your kids.
Include your kids in decisions about tech balance. How much time does your child think they should have when playing a video game? To watch a Netflix show? What channels do they think are appropriate on YouTube? Where should they use devices and what rooms should devices be banned. Having your kids develop their own rules will help them feel in control of their screen time.
Boredom is the road to creativity. As kids, it was easy for us to find a path from boredom as we had so few technology choices to serve us on demand. Todays kids need to know that boredom is okay because it leads to new discoveries. But sometimes, they still might need a little nudge in the right direction. Give them boredom challenges (they need to find something to play with for 20 minutes before they can use devices) or bet them they can't find 10 things to do with a piece of paper or a rubber ball.
Be present with your kids. Dedicate time where you can be present and interacting directly with your kids. This can include reading books together, having a discussion, doing crafts or playing games. Talk to your kids about why this time is important for human connection. Kids emulate those they see around them.
Technology is here to stay and will be an important part of our kids lives. Helping them learn how to create a tech-balanced life is a life skill they will thank you for in the years to come.
Food for thought:
When I was a kid, my favourite memories were climbing trees and building forts. I wonder what my kids will say their favourite childhood memories were. I wonder if when they are my age, will they say that they wished they spent more time on devices when they were a kid?