17 January 2014
Children and Technology Addiction
by Amanda Hearn, Green Child Magazine, 13 June 2013
“It’s hard to imagine how the next generation is going to save the environment if they haven’t actually spent time in it.”
~ author unknown
Technology is growing and changing just as quickly as our children. With constant exposure to screens, it’s only natural for a parent to be concerned about what all this screen time is doing to our children.
What can technology addiction look like?
· She can’t entertain herself without electronics.
· Disconnecting him results in tantrums or high level of irritation.
· She develops a negative attitude towards spending time in nature.
· He can’t manage guidelines surrounding electronics.
Older kids are entering a digital world with social issues connected to cyber bullying with texting, social media, adult content websites, and violent video games. We are just beginning to learn the trickle effect of advanced time spent connected to screens and children plugged into technology.
As a parent – and the one who buys devices, games, and apps – you control your child’s access to technology. Sometimes things get out of hand before we realize what happened. Don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s never too late to reframe your family’s technology rules.
1) Don’t view your phone as a shut-up toy. When my oldest child was repeatedly asking for my phone I explained that I didn’t want to shut him up. I always wanted to hear his thoughts. That conversation (and a few reminders) ended the habit he had formed of always asking for my phone out of boredom.
2) Free range your children! The summer months are ideal for getting outside more and sitting in front of a screen less. This is the best tip for that older 10 year old who can’t get enough video games. Give them the freedom to free-range with a friend, visit a local park, or just to explore! Start with smaller time intervals and let them enjoy exploring the neighborhood on their own. As a mom learning to encourage free-range play, it’s difficult to not feel panic at first. I stay positive by thinking of free-range play as a gift I can give my children to help them grow and discover the beauty of play and nature through their own eyes and experiences.
3) Insist on electronic-free play dates. We’ve all seen the effect of one child pulling out an ipod and suddenly all social interaction is lost with a group of children. Request that electronic gadgets don’t accompany guests or play dates when you are hosting.
4) Have a child that doesn’t like nature? Rekindle their love by including low-level technology to help enhance their connection. Have an old digital camera? Children love to take pictures and you can create amazing eye-spy games and hunts. Another tool to getting kids outdoors is geocaching. It’s a digital style treasure hunt that involves either a GPS or just following clues and instructions. Time spent in nature is incredibly important – if you need to take baby steps to get kids outside, every little bit counts.
5) Look at your own habits. What example are you teaching children with your relationship to electronics? When you have idle time – how do you spend it? If you are checking your phone and needing constant stimuli, it might be time to wean yourself down from your own technology addiction. Need something to keep hands busy and productive? Take up a hobby. Watch yourself through the eyes of your child and show them that you are willing to detox from electronics too.
Sometimes we need to reevaluate technology and the huge advancements and accessibility to understand how connected we’ve become. There’s no app that can replace the importance of play and time spent in nature.
Suzanne Bertani is a mother of four and the owner of Green Planet Parties, a delightful online source for stylish, eco-friendly party supplies. Her blog Mommy Footprint is dedicated to helping families live healthy, toxic-free lives.