The Digital Age Guides Our Lives. Should It Guide Our Kids Too?

After waking up in the morning, the first thing most people do is check their phones to see if they have missed a call, received an email, or catch up on the recent news.

And once leaving the house, the bombardment of screens is everywhere with advertisements, social media site checks, and computer screens at work. Each of these screens sends a message; what to buy, how to dress, and what behaviors are considered normal.

All of these social imprints affect the day-to-day living in adults – and it is also impressing on our children’s young, developing minds. The repercussions of our modern mode of life may come at a higher price than we had expected.

American Academy for Pediatrics (AAP) recently stated,

Today’s children are spending an average of seven hours a day on entertainment media, including televisions, computers, phones and other electronic devices.”

And National Public Radio reported on a study published in the journal, ‘Computers in Human Behavior’, that showed the negative effects these long hours of screen time exposure has on our kids.

In fact, University of California research found that sixth-graders who went five consecutive days without technology of any kind were better at reading human emotion than children who had the influence of screen time in their daily life.

It is significant to apply this research to kids’ daily lives. Educators are pushing further to use technology in the classroom as a teaching tool. However, this takes away face to face time with educators, and thus the ability for children to learn how to model emotions and behavior appropriately.

Kids are receiving screen time and their own technological devices at a younger and younger age as well.

According to Psychology Today, children and teens who are irritable, depressed, or apathetic may have too much technology to blame. This overstimulation from technology in society today breeds symptoms which mimic other psychological disorders, causing children and teens to be occasionally misdiagnosed.

Reducing screen time should be a first line of defense in treating unwanted behavior in our youth.

How much screen time is appropriate for my children?

The AAP recommends,

entertainment ‘screen time’ should be limited to two hours a day for children ages 3-18. And, for 2-year-olds and younger, none at all.”

Screen time in general does not have to be a bad thing.

Technology is always advancing and more of our everyday lives involve the use of technology.

However, the goal is to have moderation of screen time for children. And teaching kids that technology is a tool, not a way of life, is vital.

How do I help my kids have a healthy relationship with technology?

Dr. Ari Brown has an informational YouTube video that helps families set up a media plan. She highlights the AAP’s media tips for parents which are:

  1. Be a digital media parent.
  2. Set media-free times and places.
  3. Be a role model.

Actively engage with your child and the digital media device. Show them educational games or shows. Discover new interests they may have and explore them with your kids. Let them experience a digital world beyond the constant flashes and loud noises of video games or mindless cartoons.

Having zones in your home that are media-free, even if only for a duration of time, can encourage your child to seek entertainment apart from a media device, and enhance face to face interaction.

Try to make the family room a media-free zone from the end of school until after dinner. Or only allow media devices to be used in the dining room. This will help give kids a safe place to use a device that also discourages inappropriate uses or times. Keeping devices out of the bedroom can aid in restful sleep as well.

CNN reported on an analysis in JAMA Pediatrics which found that children who use any form of technology at night, including the phone and computer, were losing sleep. In addition, the quality of their sleep decreased. This is making children more prone to sleepiness during the day.

Just as kids model emotions, they also model behavior. As a parent, care-taker, or educator we need to be good role-models by limiting our own screen time and stressing the importance of human interaction.

The improvement of the mental and physical health of our youth is only a click away.