Regaining Control of Your Technology
In recent years, there has been a major explosion of affordable technology. Much of this technology has worked its way into the lives of kids. Just as television was once deemed a babysitter to generation X, millennials and beyond have access to much more advanced technology to keep them occupied. Mobile devices are very useful and can be remarkably entertaining. It is no secret that happy kids make for happy parents. A whole world of apps and videos geared toward children of all ages are available at the touch of a button.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children "engage with entertainment media for no more than one or two hours per day," and that children under the age of 2 spend zero time with devices that have screens. However, children of all ages spend much longer than two hours in front of a screen every day. Here are some tips on how to moderate screen time that do not involve taking away any devices:
What kids are doing on a mobile device is just as important as how much time they spend using it. Choose games, videos and apps carefully and have them readily accessible. Create playlists on video sites consisting of appropriate content. Download a new education-based game every few weeks. If you are going to allow a child to use this technology, make sure you are providing the content. Kids do like to explore, so consider password protecting apps that may have unsuitable content. Do research (Common Sense Media is one resource, many others exist) and try to use devices in a way that not only educates the child, but may also bring you both together.
Talk to kids about how they use devices. Discuss how social media posts are never really private and poor decisions about what they post may harmfully affect them. Talk about safety while using a device. Paying attention to one’s surroundings when using mobile devices is important. Set family ground rules about usage for EVERY family member to follow.
Get Some Sleep
Lack of sleep has becoming a problem in today’s society. Devices keep kids up by not only delaying bedtime or having alerts wake them, but also because the blue light emitted from screens actually stimulates the brain and makes falling asleep more difficult. Get TVs out of bedrooms and screens shut off an hour before bedtime. Charge devices outside of the bedroom or use the Do Not Disturb to prevent unnecessary distraction.
Mobile Devices Aren’t Reality Replacements
Read books. Get exercise. Create things. Interact with other people. Experiencing reality is the best nourishment for the mind and movement promotes good health.
Don’t Forget to Interact With Each Other
How often do we see people sitting together but using their smartphones? It's particularly bothersome when adults use their devices instead of engaging with the children in their company. Many couples sit together and use their devices instead of talking, often times communicating with each other through their devices. Put down the devices and spend time actively engaging with another person.
About the Author
Andres Ramgoolam, MD, FAAP is a pediatrician at Piedmont Pediatrics, a Cone Health Medical Group practice.