More Green Time, Less Screen Time

by Carol Brister

I will be the first person to support technology in education as it is such a multi-faceted arena from which to learn. However, are we allowing our children TOO much time engulfed in technology outside of the educational realm?  Research states that in the summer kids are spending an average of 7 1/2 hours per day using electronic media for non-educational purposes. This includes TV, the Internet, video games, and mobile devices. To put it simply…this means that children are plugged into some kind of electronic device for more than 53 hours a week. That is more time than most adults spend at work. Yikes! And when multi-tasking occurs, such as watching TV while playing on a mobile device, this number jumps to approximately 10 hours per day or 70 hours per week. Whoa!

Research suggests that our young children are more likely to know how to operate a cell phone before knowing how to tie their shoes, ride a bike, or even read. Studies over the past decade have concluded that a large number of adolescents today are replacing physical and imaginative play with electronics. By the same token, we are also seeing a generation having difficulty socializing face to face, connecting emotionally with people, and having empathy for others. Could excessive screen time be inhibiting them of important social skills needed to function in the world?

All of this electronic use is bound to increase as children get older and start to hit their tween and teen years. Between texting and social media, we have just upped our screen time even more!What can parents do to make sure we are not raising a generation of kids who are plugged in to devices and tuned out to people? How can we break this cycle within our homes?

For starters, we can watch our own use of technology.  I know I have had to remind myself more than a few times to walk away from the computer or put my cell phone down. Instead of using devices to occupy ourselves at the restaurant table or in the doctor’s office waiting room, let’s have a conversation or read a book. Children learn from us. We must exhibit those habits we want to see in them.

Next, we need to set aside some rules governing the use of technology in our homes.  A recent survey found that 42% of families in the US have established rules for technology use in their homes. Of this percentage, kids were found to spend less time on their electronics and more time participating in “family time,” reading, or playing outside.

There are a lot of reasons why it is important to establish electronics rules for children in the home. However, many parents aren’t sure how to go about setting limits with TV, video games, computers, and cell phones.  Below is a list to help you formulate some boundaries for healthy technology use in your home.

  1. Model healthy electronic use.
  2. Educate yourself on the electronics your children are using.
  3. Create “No Technology Zones” within your home.
  4. Establish unplugged time frames.
  5. Use parental controls.
  6. Talk to your kids about the risks.
  7. Know your child’s passwords and monitor their usage.
  8. Encourage other activities instead of electronics.
  9. Use screen time as a privilege, not a right.
  10. Don’t allow electronics in your children’s bedrooms.

Technology has so many amazing benefits. With it, we’re able to Skype grandparents who live across the country, research answers to those burning questions our children have, and organize our lives down to the minute. However, we must also realize how easy it is to over-rely or overuse technology. As parents, it is our duty to introduce healthy screen and tech habits to our children at a young age. We don’t want to raise a society of hi-tech junkies!  Instead, it is our intent to raise well-rounded, well-adjusted young men and women who can connect and interact with one another without an electronic device in their hands.

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