by Gwen Lewis
According to research from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), today’s kids may be less sensitive to facial expressions when they are glued to their screens. The ease of technological communication has decreased the prevalence of face-to-face interactions, and while Facetime and texting are easy and instantaneous the screen cannot replace in-person human connection when it comes to the subtle nuances of social skills.
And today’s kids are spending more and more time with the screen, and the screens have only become more portable. According to an article on CNN, kids now spend 48 minutes each day on handheld tech devices like cell phones. And while pediatricians recommend that parents limit younger kids (age 2 to 5) to one hour per day, their recommendations for older kids are a little less black and white.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following for grade-schoolers: “For children ages 6 and older, place consistent limits on the time spent using media, and the types of media, and make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity and other behaviours essential to health.”
This means that parents must establish hard rules about what they consider an appropriate time limit for screen exposure. For parents whose children are on devices non-stop, it’s time to frame family guidelines and create a cell phone contract that outlines all the rules of the device. And perhaps even issue a family-wide digital detox. A digital detox is a time where the family absolutely refrains from using tech devices. A digital detox could be a weekend or even a certain time of day. This doesn’t mean you can’t use a cell phone for phone calls, rather the detox is about not using the screen as a leisure activity.
When you’re detoxing together, make sure to schedule fun family activities that will take the place of screentime. Head out to a local park, go for a bike ride…just do something together that doesn’t involve technology. When you’re limiting phone use, also head to the library or a thrift store and pick up some new books. Use the screen-free time to read and get lost in a story!
Removing tech time means that you also should spend more time talking. Maybe your detox time is only during dinner or evening hours. Use the time wisely to have conversations and share information about the day. A detox doesn’t have to be an entire day; you can detox and remove screen time during certain hours or family activities.
Of course, one of the easiest ways for parents to detox kids from the lure of the phone or tablet is to wait on buying one! Today’s kids have phones and tech gadgets at a very young age. But some parents are rallying against this trend. Wait Until 8th is a pledge to not give a child a smartphone until 8th grade. The pledge doesn’t include basic phones (for texting and talking). Smartphones are the go-to device for most middle school students, and the pledge can be a means to control screen time as the site notes that “many childhood essentials are pushed aside for online amusement.”
The cell phone is a digital lure for kids, and many parents find that the screen time is ruling their child’s day. If you feel that your family is being seduced by the blue light of the screen, it’s time for a digital detox. Set limitations on screen time for the entire family, and if you have to, then take the devices away and go for a full detox. The screen should never take time away from family or face to face communications. LOL is never better than a real, in-person laugh with a friend.
Gwen Lewis is a writer who lives in California. She has been in the fashion and health industry for years and loves writing on the topic to give tips from experience. In her free time, she loves to stay active and has just taken on learning how to surf.