How many of us have listened to our grandparents talk about how much better things were back in their day? Cost of living was lower, children obeyed adults, and there was an omnipresent Leave It To Beaver quality that made it sound like women loved to dress as Jackie O while they vacuumed in high heels and prepared gourmet meals for their family.
At the risk of sounding like our elders, here goes another “when I was a kid” story. When we were growing up, technology was so different than what it is now, it’s almost as if we were raised on another planet. We used to play hide and seek, Marco Polo, the game of Life, Guess Who? Connect Four… Run, jump, hide, play with friends while they were sitting across from us; not across town, through a computer screen.
But that’s how things are done now: most interactions are through a screen. If our children are bored in the car, they can watch a movie while en route to our destination. If they are being difficult at a restaurant, out come the iPads. If they like a TV show, surely there’s a computer game or an app where they can play with the characters through an LED screen. When is all this tech time enough?
While there are benefits to introducing our children to technology at an early age, there are also detrimental effects, such as delayed speech development, their ability to recognize emotions, and making them moody.
So what can we do?
Keep TVs and computers out of their room: Having these gadgets in a common room allows you to both limit the time they spend in front of them, as well as monitor what they’re viewing.
Give them books: It’s just as easy to give them a book as it is to give them a phone or a tablet. They can flip the pages and look at the pictures if they’re infants; or they can read the stories if they are older.
Schedule play time: Pull out those board games and play as a family. Everyone has to turn off their electronics and focus on being present in the moment.
Have them do errands to earn screen time: Want additional time to play with the latest Disney app? How about dusting furniture or helping to sort the laundry first?
Meal times are family time: This includes parents as well. Cell phones and tablets don’t belong at the dinner table. This is a great opportunity for everyone to catch up with each other and to have quality time together. Make it non-negotiable.
Technology is not the enemy; but anything done in excess can have serious consequences. Substituting screen time for any of the above will safeguard our little one’s wellbeing as well as teaching them about responsibilities and the importance of quality family time. It’s a win-win situation.
To their success, always,