Heads down in screens! Are our kids missing out on the world around them?
We’ve all seen kids heads down, mesmerized in their devices, in the car, at a restaurant, visiting Grandma, on vacation texting with their friends, social networking or playing games.
- 95% of teens (12-17) use the internet
- 81% use social media
- 50% log into social media more than once per day
- 21% of kids under 13 use social media sites
Kids as in all generations, like to connect with their friends…
There is no doubt that staying in touch with friends is important to tweens and teens. Remember when we were teens and we talked for hours on the phone? Now kids are connecting where ever they are via their powerful, internet connected smartphones, often via social networking sites. The most popular activity for kids between the ages of 8 and 18 is social networking.
“The percent of children (0-8 y.o.) who use mobile devices on a daily basis – at least once a day or more – has also more than doubled from 8% to 17%. And the amount of time spent using these devices in a typical day has tripled,” according to commonsense media research.
What kind of impact is all of this social networking and screen time having on their lives? Many children, tween and teens seem unaware that there is life beyond their device such as family time, homework, other responsibilities, shooting hoops, playing tag, face to face conversation at the dinner table, enjoying a board game, or going on a ski weekend. Do you feel like your child is missing out on life and the fully focused, fully engaged experience in the world around them?
What do pediatricians say about screen time?
Pediatricians recommend that kids under the age of two have zero screen time and kids over two to have limited screen time to no more than two hours a day.
The first 2 years of life are considered a critical time for brain development. TV and other electronic media can get in the way of exploring, playing, and interacting with parents and others, which encourages learning and healthy physical and social development.
As kids get older, too much screen time can interfere with activities such as being physically active, reading, doing homework, playing with friends, and spending time with family.
“Studies have shown that excessive media use can lead to attention problems, school difficulties, sleep and eating disorders, and obesity. In addition, the Internet and cell phones can provide platforms for illicit and risky behaviors.”
Every minute a child, tween or teen spends in front of a screen is time away from enjoying life around them, like playing outside; riding a bike; building a lego fort, reading a book or setting up a lemonade stand on a hot summer day.
What another teen says about screen time…
One boy who decided that enough was enough regarding the amount of time his online world and gaming was consuming him said this, “One day I started to delete my online gaming accounts and uninstall the online games too. As time passed, I also stopped checking and chatting on forums. It was a gradual process. I checked e-mail accounts twice a week, the next month just once a week, and eventually, almost never. After I deleted all my accounts I began to approach my life in a different way. Since childhood I had been interested in creative things, like painting, photography, origami, and playing musical instruments. I also started doing more sports, like basketball and skateboarding. I discovered that the nicest parts of my life were those that didn’t include any electronic devices.”
Used wisely and with time limits, the Internet can be a source of good information, a place to exchange ideas and collaborate. Computer devices are a great way to stay in touch with friends and family. Too much time on devices and online can deprive kids of deep focused thought that is required to be creative and enjoy the world beyond devices. Don’t let your child miss out on the wonderful life around them.
What Can Parents Do?
- Teaching balance in life is part of what parents do. Kids left to their own devices, would eat ice cream for breakfast, watch TV instead of doing homework and stay up till two in the morning texting with friends.
- Set limits on screen time, following the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics. No screen time for kids under the age of two, and no more than two hours over the age of two.
- Teach essential life skills, like getting homework done and then chatting with friends or playing a game online.
- Keep devices away from the dinner table so you can all talk with each other during this important family time. (Turn the TV off too!)
- Teach your kids about healthy screen time and when it’s appropriate to use their device and when it’s not. Definitely not while visiting Grandma or texting while driving.
- Remove devices from their bedrooms at night so they get a good night’s sleep.
- Let them know that there is a world out there that you don’t want them to miss out on, so that when you go on trips together they will have limited device use.
- They may think you’re the meanest parent at the moment, but don’t worry they’ll get over it and thank you in a few years!
- Be a good role model yourself. Put your device away when it’s reading time, or when you’re watching your child play soccer on the sidelines.