As I sit at the doctor’s office I notice parents and kids with their eyes down looking at a hand held device. Similar scenes spread out at the grocery store, restaurants and even church. Gone are the days when kids looked at a book, played with a doll or car, or even colored in a coloring book. They are entertained by electronics. Gone are the days when families interacted with each other, now everyone has their own form of entertainment readily available.
The average American child age eight to age eighteen spends more than seven hours per day looking at a video game, computer, cell phone, or television. By the age of seven, a child born today will have spent one full year of twenty-four hour days watching screen media. ~Growing up Social
Gary Chapman and Arlene Pellicane have written a fantastic book titled Growing up Social that is perfect for helping us parents navigate the world of technology and our kids. The book walks us through the A+ Method for relational kids and gives us five steps to help our kids be more relational with those around them. It also breaks down the negatives of screen time on our kids, and the affect it has on their brain, their personalities, and their relationships.
I took away a lot from this book, and found it to help me not only as a parent, but also as a person who works online, and has struggled with being unplugged myself. The book is full of valuable tips and information, but three tips stood out to me the most.
What 3 tips would make such a big difference?
Three tips to raising social kids in a screen driven world:
1. We must be the parent!
As parents, it is our job to limit screen time, and set boundaries. Allowing our children’s lives to be dominated by a screen is allowing them to think the world revolves around them. It is teaching them that if they don’t like something, they can switch to something else. That is not real life. Kids need to learn to wait because gratification is not instant. It does not come in the form of drop down menus or endless options.
2. We need to teach our kids that relationships require real communication.
Kids have relationships via text, email, and social media. They rarely have face-to-face conversations. When kids get together, they often have their faces in a video game, or an app on a mobile device. This does not build relationships. Communication does, eye contact does, and spending real time together does. Kids need to learn how to interact with people without a device standing in the way.
3. We need to teach our kids that online and on screen actions have consequences.
Have you have had a friend or family member say something to you via text or email and wondered about the tone? Have you ever had your feelings hurt from a text? Or a photo shared on social media that you didn’t want shared? I have, and chances are you have too. Our kids have to live in this environment every day for the rest of their lives. They need to learn that what happens online or even via text can’t be taken back. It is there, on a screen forever. These actions have consequences and can’t be taken back. Talk to your kids about safety and what should and shouldn’t be done online. Explain to them that what they see online can’t be taken back. I talk to your kids about what they should and shouldn’t see or look at on the internet. Have screen free zones where electronic devices aren’t allowed. We should strive to keep our kids safe in a media saturated world.
The world is a lot different than it was when we were growing up, and I don’t always think that is a good thing. My kids access to hand held devices has been limited, and that is rare, but I still think they spend more time attached to a screen then I would like. I know that I spend way more time attached to my iphone than I should be. So, how do we change it? How do we raise social children in a world that is driven by electronic screens? I believe that Growing up Social gives us some good guidelines and tips for raising social kids in a screen driven world.