Recently, among friends at dinner, we were discussing our childhoods and we all fondly recalled the hours spent playing outdoors, building indoor forts, and dressing up with grandma’s hand-me-downs from the previous decades. As our walk down memory lane progressed, it dawned on us that our own kids are missing out on these iconic rights of childhood. No longer do our boys and girls play outside with the neighbor kids or start pick up games of ball or hide-n-seek. No, our children spend a majority of their days glued in front of a screen of some kind.
Sure, it might vary from televisions, gaming systems, smartphones, tablets, computers, and more, but the results are all the same: inactivity. To put this into clearer perspective, everyday our children spend close to an average of 9 hours consuming media in some form or another! That number is mind boggling, especially when we consider that many of us adults spend less time at work in a day than our kids do scrolling and tapping the hours away. This statistic, while eye opening, clearly shows us that kids need a digital detox.
Too Much of a Good Thing? The Case for a Digital Detox
If our children are over-dependent on technology and fixated on screens, they are missing out on very important face-to-face interactions with the adults and peers in their lives. This also reduces the amount of time spent playing and interacting with their surroundings. Limiting these interactions hinders the emotional, cognitive, and social development of a child. This impacts a child’s ability to learn, form relationships, and even learn how to read emotional cues.
We also need to consider the strong correlation between overuse of social media and feelings of depression or anxiety. To make matters worse, the rates of cyberbullying have tripled within the last few years. These developments have the potential to cause some serious side effects and tears down the road for our children.
In addition to social and emotional outcomes, there are a few physical conditions related to too much screen time. Fast paced stimuli from social media and other instant applications are shown to trigger addiction responses by altering the development of our children’s brains. Which leads our sons and daughters to want more and more screen time. This can lead to interrupted sleep due to the light emitted from their beloved screens and physical ailments like sore joints, poor posture, sedentary lifestyles, carpal tunnel syndrome, and neck pains to surface.
Helping Kids Strike a Healthy Balance Between Screens
Too much technology has the potential to impact our kids’ social and emotional development, health, and even relationships in some interesting ways. Thankfully, we can help our kids learn ways to strike a balance between screens and technology so they can reclaim their childhoods. We know technology isn’t all bad and is here to stay, so it’s essential we help our kids learn to find moderation in their lives.
Read the following list for digital detox tips for kids:
Only allow screens in common living areas. Keep all devices away from the dinner table and out of bedrooms to provide time to unplug.
Limit data on smartphones and other technology.
Make a family game night or find a new activity. Make detoxing more appealing by finding fun activities to occupy the kids’ time.
Write a family technology contract. Outline all the expectations and consequences for using technology in your home. This will prevent future problems and miscommunication when it comes to screen time.
Set a technology curfew. Power down screens at a designated time every night.
Reward children for playing outside, doing chores, reading, and more by letting them earn screen time for the week.
Begin an ongoing discussion about technology and balance. Be upfront and talk about the role technology should play in our daily lives. By being honest, kids will be empowered to make educated choices about technology and screen time.
Granted, technology and devices do have a place in our kids’ lives. Today’s tech allows us instant communication, access to information with a tap of a screen, and connects friends and families in ways we never imagined. Whether we like it or not, screens are going to be a part of our sons’ and daughters’ lives, but we can give them the tools to balance technology and navigate the digital world.
How do you strike a balance between screens and help kids digitally detox in your family?