The Digital Age and our Children
Sure, we live in the “Digital Age” and our children are virtually born with a silver iPhone in their hands. Recent studies suggest that the average child spends more than 7 1/2 hours each day engrossed in digital media (e.g., television, video games, social media, etc.). Today’s average child will have spent roughly 10,000 hours playing video games by the time they are 21 (that’s the equivalent of 14 months, 24-7). Much of this time is spent with very little face-to-face social interaction, often-times by themselves or interacting with people they don’t even know. It doesn’t take a research study to realize that this cannot be healthy for their social and mental development, though there are plenty of studies that confirm this. I’m not suggesting that these pass-times don’t have a time and place, but I do believe that parents should monitor and moderate their use. One effective way to do this, without significant resistance, is to engage your children (from toddlers to teenagers) in family game nights and break out the fun non-electronic games that we enjoyed in our youth.
The dangers of digital immersion
Here are just a few of the most obvious dangers:
- Lack of meaningful, face-to-face social interaction can lead to poor social development. Children who do not learn how to properly interact in social situations are at a significant disadvantage and can become withdrawn, self-conscious, depressed and may even engage in anti-social behavior.
- Extreme cases (as we’ve seen on the nightly news far too often) can lead children and adolescents to confuse fantasy with reality.
- Too much screen time, along with poor diet, is believed by many to be one of the major contributing causes of our child-obesity epidemic.
Personally, I think that these few items alone should be enough to motivate most parents to take action. Our children are a reflection of us (as their parents), they are our legacy, they should be our pride and joy! We need to nurture them and make sure we’re giving them the attention and guidance they need at each stage of their development. We should not assume that they know the proper limits when it comes to immersing themselves too deeply into the digital media that has permeated every area of our daily lives.
It’s time for an intervention…
I’m not a psychologist, and I don’t play one on tv, but one thing that I’ve found that can tear the kids away from their video games and smart phones, without having to confiscate their electronic devices, is to schedule regular family activities where you give your kids your undivided attention. Break out the retro board games of your youth, have a picnic in your backyard, engage your kids in a game of bean bag toss or frisbee outside, plan a camping trip, go for a nature hike — the ideas are limited only by your imagination. The benefits of making regular family time a priority will have immeasurable benefits for not only your children, but for you as well.
What’s the upside?
Sitting down to a game of Monopoly or Yahtzee or Risk (just a few examples) can lead to hours of conversation, laughter and memorable fun with your children.
Though it may initially require some coaxing, soon you will find that your kids are anticipating these family times. These simple activities can provide some of the best opportunities for talking to your kids about their days, teaching young children basic concepts (like counting, sharing, following rules, etc.) and showing them how much you care about them.
Tip of the day:
- Family Calendar: If you don’t already have one, get a calendar that you can post in a prominent location and pencil in your family activity times as you would any other important appointment. I recommend that you block out at least an hour or two during the school week and an equivalent amount on the weekend. By blocking this time out, you are communicating to your children that you consider it a priority to spend time with them. When your kids know that they are loved, they are much more open in their communication, they are open to instruction and they reciprocate that love in the form of respect and obedience. As the saying goes, “they won’t care how much you know, unless they know how much you care”.
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Best wishes for many more happy family memories,