It’s a common sight when you’re enjoying a meal at a restaurant or at a family gathering; parents and children sitting at a table, mom or dad, or both, are engrossed with their smartphone or tablet, rather than each other, and so are the children. They are physically together, but not present or in the moment with each other.
Call it a first world, 21st century problem. Gone are the days of just a TV set in each room. Now we have laptops, tablets, phones – multiple screens and streaming options at our fingertips. And it’s not uncommon that our devices, namely smartphones, are on our person every minute of the day.
It’s plain to see that our society, especially our children, is plugged in and missing out on the real world action around them. And it starts early. The harried single parent might use a screen as a stand-in for a babysitter.
According to a Kaiser Family Foundation study, the average 8- to 10-year-old spends nearly eight hours a day with a variety of screens, and older children and teenagers spend more than 11 hours per day.
The Seattle Children’s Research Institute found that heavy use of electronic media can have significant effects on a child’s behavior and health, and how well they do in school.
It’s time to bring in the old because having fun never goes out of style. Get outside and play! Prioritize daily unplugged playtime, especially for the very young.
Unstructured play with other kids teaches your kid how to interact with others, solve problems, and work things out. Independent play allows them to tap into their imaginations and creativity, and figure out what they enjoy. Not to mention the benefits of physical activity in light of our nation’s expanding waistline.
Spring is here and the weather is getting warmer. Turn away from the glow of your screens and opt for the warm glow of the sun.
A friend recounted a story to me of being in a car with his 8-year-old son, and his son asked, “Dad, why don’t you love me?” My friend, caught off-guard by that question, looked at his son and said, “What do you mean? I love you with all my heart.” The son said, “You love your phone more than me. You are always on your phone and you never look at me or talk to me.” Ouch.
Children don’t just want your physical presence. They want YOU. Real face time trumps FaceTime on your screens. Set the example by limiting your own media use.
There was a time when society functioned just fine without all of these modern devices. Going “old school” in this case seems like a fine idea.