Technology…it is a blessing, but it can also be a frustration, a distraction, and many times a downright danger.
I’ve been here before, and I’ll bet you have too: putting on Baby Einstein so I could have “20 minutes of magic” to reclaim my sanity when they were babies, the iPad to help during car rides or long dinners, and the iPhone to help with waits at the doctor’s office or other places. Harmless, right? I’ve heard it from many moms, “How do I reclaim my kids from technology, and how do I teach them to use it appropriately?”
Boy, that is a big question…one that has multiple answers, resources, and ways to approach it. I’ve answered this question this way: do your research, decide what you want to do as a family, and stick to a plan.
In response to requests, I thought I’d provide you with a few resources and ideas for creating your own screen time plan at home.
I started my research by interviewing licensed mental health counserlor, Juli Steinocher. She was organizing a workshop on this very topic and had some great perspective to share with me, including her own experiences with her two boys ages 9 and 11.
Last spring and summer, Juli and her husband began to notice behavioural issues with their boys. They were scared because their sons became aggressive, and they noticed that the boys would wake up in the morning wanting to play with their computers.
It started off with learning games. Juli and her husband thought they were doing something good for their kids. As they grew older and the games changed, their boys became more aggressive with each other, and it got so bad that Juli told her husband that there was something wrong. They even enrolled in parenting classes to refresh their skills and make sure they were being effective parents. The classes helped, providing them with useful information. Then one day, Juli’s husband was at the grocery store, and he noticed the cover story of Newsweek Magazine: iCrazy. He bought it, and they read the article together and as a family. It was a wake up call for them.
The article and additional research provided some staggering statistics: 1/3 of smartphone users go online before getting out of bed. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation study, kids 8-18 are exposed to an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes a day of screen time. It is even more when you consider all the things they are doing at the same time (phones, TV, laptop). This includes more than four hours a day watching TV. Wow!
Juli came up with a model, a five-point process for managing screen time called iCare:
I – Inform your family. Have a clear conversation about why too much screen time can be harmful. Once you have set some ground rules for your family, be sure to share with your friends and others who might support in this effort, too.
C – Connect. Connect your behaviors to your use of screen. Juli would point out behavioral changes she saw in her children. Also, spend time connecting with your kids. Try dedicating 15 minutes per day with each child. If you listening more than you talk, they will be more likely to open up to you.
A – Activities. Explore new ways to use this time. Musical instruments can be enjoyable and can promote positive brain development. Juli purchased new board games to enjoy with her family. Other ideas include playing outside, reading, fishing, cooking, dancing, crafting, and exercise.
R – Rules. Creating a list of rules is a must. Determine what limits you want to set for your family. For Juli, it was one hour of screen time each day, and shutting off all electronics one hour before bed.
E – Evolve. Do your own research. Understand the impact of screen time on your child’s development.
Juli also recommends that parents follow these rules themselves. Since the pace of life is quicker than ever, you should set set boundaries and power down your electronics. If our children see us change our habits, they will model our behavior.
Want to learn more about Juli? Visit www.mindbodylab.com.