Screen Time: Five Tips to Balance Technology In Family Life

Screen Time Five Tips to Balance Technology In Family Life

A little over a year ago I decided to try a social media challenge. I wanted to see how my life would change if I only visited Facebook once a day. I kept a journal during this time to document what changes I noticed. You can read about my challenge here. I bring this challenge up because it really forced me to see how technology had changed my life. With technology came social media. With social media came a drop in empathy, self esteem and an increase of anxiety. I spent so much time thinking about what others thought of me and what I wanted to say to them that I forgot about who was really important; my family.

Are We Losing the Art of Empathy and Consciousness?

A loss of empathy is one of the biggest problems I see with technology.

We have let our guard down when it comes to what we say or do. We often don’t think twice about saying what we really think when we are typing it into the social media void. We do think about our words when we are looking at people face to face. When we lose empathy, we lose the ability to think about how others feel.  In extreme cases, we hear about kids killing parents over normal consequences of bad behavior or kids killing kids because they were teased at school.

The art of “just being” has also been lost in this age of technology. It’s not at all unusual to go to a restaurant, doctor’s office or grocery store and see kids on smart phones or tablets. Why do they have them? Because they were acting up or getting bored so it was the obvious pacifier. I have done this many times myself.

Do you ever find yourself sitting alone and all of a sudden you start to hear yourself think? That is scary! You never know what you might tell yourself! So what do you do? You pick up the phone, check social media, make a call or text someone. It’s a very uncomfortable emotion to allow our minds to start thinking. Yet the beautiful thing about thinking is that we can heal our anxieties, come up with new ideas and build the foundations of our identity.

When we allow our kids to have technology we risk one of the most valuable tools they have.

They lose the ability to observe the world around them and listen to their own thoughts; their consciousness. This is what gives them the ability to think of others, solve problems and become better people. If we take this ability away by creating a constant habit of replacing thoughts with a device they lose the chance to better themselves and the world.

Does this mean we should never let our kids use  hand held devices to distract them when at a restaurant? No.

What it means is we should let them experience sitting in the restaurant without a device. Teach them how to sit quietly and observe the world around them. There will be a time in their life where they will have to know how to sit quietly.

Have those teachable moments with your kids.

It doesn’t have to be every time you are out but start building an awareness about it and practice it when you can. Engage with them, ask them about their surroundings, what they see, hear and smell. What makes them curious and what they are thinking. Make it a game and see what comes of it.

During my research for this blog post I read this article. The most interesting thing about it to me were the comments. A few of them talk about how it doesn’t matter if it’s books or devices. Kids are kids; they will get focused on what they want to and ignore what they want to.

It’s up to us to teach them the appropriate time for these things and to help them find a balance.

What’s A Busy Parent To Do?

Hey I get it.

You are busy and sometimes whipping out the iPad or turning on a TV show is convenient. I do this myself.  I am far from a perfectly balanced life.  But I have found some great ways to incorporate balance into our family life.

Five Tips to Balance Technology In Family Life

Here are five tips for creating more balance.

1. Set up toy stations. Before I sit down to work, many times I’ll pull out different tubs of toys and create a village with my kids. I will get them started playing and then I explain it’s time for me to work and them to play. I do this during times where I know I can get interruptions because they do happen.

2. Wean them off technology. If your kids are used to having the TV or a device anytime you are busy then you’ll need to wean them off. It’s just like any other treat.  Start to limit how much they get and back off until you have found a good balance that works for everyone. At first they will complain and throw fits but as you wean them you should see less of this behavior.

3. Kids WILL play, give them a chance. So many time I have turned the TV on because I feared that if I did not I wouldn’t get my work done. Once I started more research about technology I was aware of what I was doing. So I quit turning the TV on and observed what happened. I noticed that they did what kids naturally do. They started playing and looking at books, big surprise right? They keep themselves busy with the world around them.

4. Schedule it. I look at my day and see where I have to have uninterrupted time. If I need more than one hour, I get a babysitter or wait till hubby can help. There are times that I have a skype call or something that is an hour or less where I can’t be interrupted. Those are the times they get a show or app to play with.

5. Supervise it. The sources of technology our kids are most exposed to are TV, MP3 players, smart phones, tablets, e-readers and computers. In reality parents should only be allowing educational programming/reading for their kids. We all enjoy some fun entertainment that doesn’t necessarily mean learning. So if parents allow kids to consume non-educational content then parents should supervise kids or at least preview the specific content allowed. Parents should also have a conversation with kids about the material consumed. Remember to have wi-fi turned off whenever possible, read more about that in our last article here.

Supervise social media 100%.

Time Allowed and Approved Activities.

Here is a list of ages showing time that should be allowed and types of technology that is okay. This list is what I put together from my own research. It is not scientific and has not been approved. Please note that this is my opinion only. Be sure to check out the sources at the end of this post.

  • Ages 0-2 – 0 to 1 hour of tech time. The best type of technology for this age is constructive technology. Interactive apps using devices such as tablets and other small handheld devices with wi-fi/phone connection off (use airplane mode). TV is not recommended for this age.
  • Ages 3-5 – 0 to 2 hours of constructive technology (see above) or educational TV.
  • Ages 6-18 – Up to 2 hours of constructive technology (see above), educational TV, non-violent movies / video games.

In Conclusion.

Family life is one great big balancing act, it can be very overwhelming when we have to deal with subjects like technology. I hope that today’s post has given you useful ideas on how to bring more awareness and balance into your family’s life around technology. If you did not catch last week’s post I encourage you to go check it out here and learn how you can keep your kids and your own bodies healthy around technology.

Next week will be our final post on the Screen Time series. We will be giving you a worksheet and mini guide to help your family be successful with the interaction of technology. We will also have a list of suggestions for what to do with/for your kids when you can’t offer them technology as a way for you to get something done. Now go be awesome!

-Natalie Hixson

Be sure to come back Sunday, April 20, at 8:30 EST to watch the Google Hangout! It will be live here on the blog. If you have anything you want to add to this conversation or any questions, please use the comments below so we can address them on the hangout. See you back here in a few days!

Question: What are some ways you like to spend your no tech time? Tell us in the comments below!

Sources:

Wifi off – http://www.emfanalysis.com/emf-superhero.html

Wean your kids – http://in.reuters.com/article/2014/03/31/us-parents-kids-idINBREA2U1O120140331?feedType=RSS&feedName=health&utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter&dlvrit=309303

https://shine.yahoo.com/parenting/getting-your-kids-off-the-ipad-is-worth-the-fight-191447400.html

Tech time table – http://movingtolearn.ca/2014/ten-reasons-why-hand-held-devices-should-be-banned-for-children-under-the-age-of-12

Fun Interactive technology for kids! –

http://www.ubooly.com/

http://www.gizmag.com/top-ten-high-tech-toys-for-kids/30173/

http://www.appysmarts.com/appset/best-apps-for-toddlers,id_85.php

Keep your kids safe app – http://mamabearapp.com/

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