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Published on May 13th, 2018 | by Guest


Digital Detox: Helping Kids Strike a Balance Between Screens

While technology is an unavoidable reality of life in the 21st century, sometimes too much of a good thing can have negative consequences.

This is certainly the case as it relates to children and their obsession with, and oftentimes addiction to, their screens. Whether TV, computer, laptop, smartphone, tablet, or any other mobile device, kids are getting increasingly glued to their screens and unglued from other important things like face-to-face interaction, quality time with family, and exercise time alone or as part of a group. What this necessitates is a digital detox to regain a semblance of balance.

The Problem

A recent study linking drops in psychological well-being among eighth, 10th, and 12th graders in America and the rise of smartphone technology shows that something startling is afoot. According to the study, teen self-esteem, which climbed in the early 1990s, dropped after 2012, which happens to be the year that smartphone ownership in the U.S. hit the 50% plateau. The report adds that teens’ psychological health fell the more hours weekly they spent on screens for, among other things, social media, Internet, and gaming. According to information from the Pew Research Center as well as the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, meanwhile, the percentage of teen agers who used smartphones was 37% in 2012, 73% in 2015, and 89% at the conclusion of 2016.

Separately, Common Sense Media reports that 59% of parents say that their small children are addicted to their screen time while 66% of parents insist that their children spend an excessive amount of time on their screens. And kids are getting hooked earlier these days. For instance, mobile media time for children between the ages of zero and eight went from an average of 15 minutes daly in 2013 to an average of up to 48 minutes daily in 2017. And the thing is that this insatiable desire for screen time only tends to increase as children get older. Consider that tweens rack up screen time of an average of four hours of 36 minutes daily while teens rack up an average of six hours and 40 minutes daily. So, it’s not something kids merely grow out of.

In this tech-crazed world, there are things that can be done to bring about a digital detox so that kids learn to strike a healthy balance between screens and other useful things like face-to-face interaction, time with their loved ones, and outdoor play time.

The Solution

How can families ensure that kids don’t spend too much time on their screens? The solution may very well be a technology contract where a family comes together and hammers out an agreement that limits daily screen time and stipulates conditions that must be honored in order to continue to enjoy the use of technology in the home.

Setting up a contract is critical, and one of the ways parents can get their kids to buy into the idea is to drive home the point that a smartphone or other mobile device is a privilege rather than a right. And this means that it can be taken away if the contract is violated. Here’s how to do it.

1. Family Meeting

It’s important that families meet to construct the contract. Getting everyone’s concerns and explaining expectations will facilitate the development of an agreement. It’s also critical that parents tell their children what’s expected and detail the punishment if the rules are broken.

2. Set Screen Time Limits

Ensure that the contract clearly specifies the amount of allowable screen time per day, and parents should not feel the need to enforce the same limits on all of their children. A five year old should not be granted the same amount of screen time as his 15-year-old sister, for instance. In addition to limiting the amount of time children are permitted to spend in front of the screen, the contract should list alternatives for screen time such as playing outside, reading a good book, or walking the dog.

3. Technology Etiquette

Parents need to explain what constitutes proper online behavior when it comes to social media, posting content, downloading content, accessing content, interacting with friends and disagreeable people, and sharing information. It’s best to require children to report any situations that make them uncomfortable such as strangers requesting personal information and pictures. Parents should also use monitoring software to keep tabs on how much time their kids are spending online and on which sites they are spending that time. While such monitoring software should be non-negotiable, this doesn’t mean that it should be implemented without letting children know. Being transparent and explaining the reason why it’s a must will be preferable to installing it without informing the children that they are indeed being monitored.

4. Sign it and Stick to it

Once the family technology contract has been written down, parents should ensure that everyone in their household signs it. It’s also important that it be enforced consistently and that the contract be revised periodically to reflect any changes warranting an update.

For many children living in the digital age, a digital detox is in order. By recognizing the problem and then developing a family technology contract, parents can reduce the odds of their children developing an unhealthy attachment to their technology.

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