Once upon a time there was alarm about the impact TV had on developing minds. That concern hasn’t disappeared. It’s grown. Today we have tech savvy, digital kids. Parents carry mini computers in their pockets, and increasingly, their children do too. TVs were generally restricted to a room, which meant limiting access was a lot easier. Today, with the Internet, electronic media is everywhere. It’s in the schoolyard, sometimes the classroom. It’s on the bus. Smartphones and all the content associated with them, from apps and games to YouTube and Facebook, travel with us. So when and how do we switch off? Can we? Of course as a parent it’s a duty to set boundaries and monitor the habits and wellbeing of our children. Yet how often are we as parents gazing into screens, lost in the content beamed to us by our own devices? Are we taking enough responsibility for our own habits? Children observe their parents and emulate them whenever possible.
Smartphones and all their associated content have infiltrated every facet of our existence. Most parents I know limit the amount of screen time their offspring have. But is that enough? I try to impose limits yet, admittedly, there are times I use the phone to buy myself a respite from questions or demands or simply a second of uninterrupted peace. There are moments I wish we could dump all our devices on the scrap heap. But even if we could be perfect parents and mentally present 100% of the time, would it be unrealistic and self-defeating to attempt to stop them completely? Digital devices are now tools for self expression as much as they are windows into content both dark and illuminating. There’s also evidence to indicate that cutting out media completely would lock children out of social connection and opportunities to learn and prosper. The digital djinn is out of the bottle. So how do we keep our kids grounded?
For now perhaps we can only try one thing: balance out digital time with exercise, art and other non electronic pursuits. Read books to, and in the presence of our children. Switch our own phones off whenever possible, especially before sleep. In my home we now try to make sure that the last hour before bed is spent on some form of art or non electronic storytelling. Imposing limits on others which we don’t personally observe is a recipe for failure. Moreover, children easily see through hypocrisy. They are too intelligent and too aware to be deceived.
There’s a really good piece here by Jean M. Twenge the author of iGen which contains some useful research-backed suggestions. What do you think? Right now I am having technical difficulties reloading the comments function on this page so I’d welcome thoughts and comments or any resources you’d suggest on my Facebook page as I am looking for guidance on this issue too.
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