Let’s face it: As parents, we all have played on our phone or electronic devices we are with our kids. Whether it’s a quick text or a social media post on Facebook or Instagram, it can be difficult to put the electronics down. Most parents can admit that they are guilty of it. But in reality, our Snapchats and Facebook can wait – especially if it means setting a good example for our children and protecting their health, since increased screen time is associated with some behavior problems, ADHD, higher rates of childhood obesity, poor physical activity, poor sleep quality and poor school performance.
Multiple studies have shown that as parents increase their screen time (whether it be smart phones, iPads, TV, computers, video games), their children tend to do the same. Our children are constantly learning from us and following in our footsteps. When we focus on a screen instead of our child, we are sending a message that says, “My phone or the TV or the computer is more interesting than you.” The main reason why kids are so interested in their parent’s smartphones and tablets, is because from the day they’re born, they see their own parents glued to these devices. It is no wonder that children are fascinated by electronics and want to use them, too.
In addition, parents can be easily tempted in using their electronic devices while sitting leisurely at a playground with their children, in the restaurant, in their vehicles while waiting for someone, in the bus stops, while waiting in supermarket lines or even in the restrooms. Soon enough when their kids see them do this all the time, they were more likely to engage in the same risky behaviors. This follow-up behavior may be because the kids were trying to get a parent’s attention. This is definitely something to really think about as parents who live in the era where they are constantly bombarded by technology and digital devices!
Believe it or not, there are even parents who are worse than their teenagers when it comes to electronic media. They refuse to stop playing video games or scrolling through social media even if their lives depended on it.
It’s time that parents should set an example for their children and show them how to put down the devices. Here are some tips that will help you and your kids slowly unplug from the digital monster:
Put limitations on screen time. Limit as much screen timeas possible – ideally no more than one hour per day. The more our children use electronics, the less physical activity they do. Fight the boredom by making a list of things to do to keep the kids occupied.
Remove the TV from the bedroom. Take the TV out of your room and your child’s room. Screen time at bedtime has been shown to influence sleep patterns and lead to less sleep and increased behavior problems.
Set aside play time. Show your child he or she is more important than the screen, and do things the old-fashioned way. Play with your kids, and let their imaginations run wild. Take them to the park, a museum or help them build a battle fort in the living room.
Ban electronics from the dinner table. Make mealtime an electronics-free zone – no TV, no smartphone, no tablet on the table. Eating with screens on makes you more likely to consume more calories and less likely to have a conversation with your child. Take the time to find out what happened in your child’s day instead of reading posts about what’s happening in other people’s lives.
Get interactive with your children. There are times when screens are OK, but if you’re going to use electronics, use them together as a family in an interactive way.
This summer, make a resolution to unplug as much as possible. By doing so, you’ll not only create more memories with your children, you’ll also help improve your family’s well-being.