Should We Turn Back the Clock on Technology for our Kids?
By Patti Hermes – Parent to Parent
You may or may not have seen this in your travels on the world wide web in recent weeks in the Huffinton Post — Reasons Why Handheld Devices Should Be Banned for Children Under the Age of 12 , by Chris Rowan, a pediatric occupational therapist. Despite her qualifications, and solidly backing up her argument with studies and input from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Canadian Pediatric Society, you would be hard-pressed to find many supporters of her recommendations. And that’s not even taking into account that an all-out governmental ban would be impossible to enforce, let alone passed through the legislative process.
That’s not surprising, as hand-held devices are many parents’ lifesavers as they hurry through their busy days, ferrying children between activities, and keeping the little ones occupied (as in not whining). We’ve become dependent upon all those apps that were so easy to just download to our phone, and then we hand it off to whichever child is bored and hungry and waiting to go home for a late supper. Am I right?
Who doesn’t hear warnings from their family doctors about screen time, how much and what kinds? But blanket recommendations, and certainly all out bans, are unreasonable. While it’s difficult to know exactly how much time is being spent using technology while your children are in school, even when the entire family is at home, or all together in the car, the hours can add up quickly if not closely monitored. And what about e-books? Do they count as screen time or reading time? It can be so confusing trying to assimilate all these well-meaning guidelines to fit our individual families, let alone our individual kids.
My youngest is still homeschooled, so while he is closely monitored throughout the day, he also has a bit more free time during the school day to pick up an ipod and get his game on while I fix a quick lunch. The upside to that is his latest passion, magic. By the time I have lunch ready, he has a new magic trick almost perfected, curtesy of the great magicians on Youtube. I know some of you will shudder at the thought of allowing youtube during the school day, but it works for us.
And that’s how parents should handle such advice, just guidelines. Your experiences will vary. Every kid is different, and how they handle their gaming and internet surfing and video and tv watching around all the rest of their daily activities will vary also. Just like the weather. This winter has been so long and so cold, and we’ve been cooped up with our devices for so long, that we’re just bouncing off the walls here, ready to get outside and get some fresh air. If your family seems to have become physically attached to their i-toys, then maybe some parental influence is in order. Take them away, and tell them they can have them back when the streetlights come on.
The most important aspect of all this technology in our families was not even mentioned in the article, and I don’t see much of it in online discussions, either. That is parental modeling. You are your children’s first and best teacher. They see how you interact with your devices, and they will imitate you. You set the guidelines for their behavior, and adjust accordingly. Likewise, keep tabs on your own behavior, how your technology use affects your daily interactions with your family, and adjust accordingly. Moderation is the key, keep it age-appropriate, and specific to your own family situations. And don’t forget to schedule periodic technology vacations. Like going outside to play, and don’t come home until the streetlights come on.