Setting Limits on Technology Use for Kids
No doubt about it, we love technology. But is it possible to have too much of a good thing? In the case of children's overuse of video games, tv, ipods and computers, YES!
Part of the issue is, if our youth are spending so much time on their devices, what are they missing out on? Kids these days no longer know how to entertain themselves, they dont know how to play outside and worst of all, they are not learning how to play with each other! The number of children who have under-developed social skills is growing, the activity level of our youth is dropping; creating a generation of kids who are overweight, out of shape and lacking social skills. There is no doubt that our modern culture is changing faster than what we are able to keep up with and parents are not equipt to manage these challenges. But the bottom line is, we have to STOP (or at least slow down) and ask ourselves...
What kind of future are we preparing these kids for? It is our job to create a kind of environment that is best for our child's healthy development and allowing free reign of devices and media use is NOT what is best for a growing brain and body.
There is growing evidence to support our suspicions that use of devices is addictive. We dont know the full extent that intense, long-term use of devices is having on developing brains. Even more alarming is the evidence that demonstrates how accidentally coming across pornography online can produce immediate addiction in adolocent and teen boys, which can lead to re-wiring of the brain, shaping their sexuality long-term. See this McLean's article.
So, there are reasons a plenty for WHY we should be limiting and monitoring device use, I am here to offer some advice on HOW to do just that. These may seem hard-core for you, because they do not follow what seems to be "the norm", however, if we are the stewards of our children's growing minds--should we not do our due dilligence to protect them?
1)Limit how many devices you allow into your home. Yes, that means just because you were BORN doesnt automatically entitle you to a lap top, tablet and ipod (smart phone, DS, gameboy etc.). The more devices you have the more monitoring needs to happen, to simplify your life, less is more.
No one under 10 years of age should have a device of their own. In the case of boys who have under-developed social skills, I would up that age limit to 12 years of age. If they already have their own devices, then you need to take it over. The conversations can go something like this:
I was under the impression that it was ok for you to have this device. But after hering about how it can impct your brain development, I have realized that in order to help you to be healthy and happy, I have to limit your use of it. This doesnt mean that you wont get to use it, but when you use it and for how long you use it, will be up to me. So from now on, I am gong to keep it safe, and when its time for you to use it, I will give it to you. I know this may seem mean and unreasonable to you, but I want to you know that I am doing this because I care about you and what kind of person you grow up to be. (see #2 for setting time limits)
Kids dont need cell phones-- even if our culture is telling them they do. My rule is, my kids can get a cell phone when they are in position to pay the monthly bill themselves. If you believe having a phone is a safety issue, you are being misled. (See my article on what you really need to know about child protection).
One device should suffice. When my daughter wanted an ipad mini (which she paid for herself) she had to trade-in her ipod. There is no reason for a youth to have more than one. If you disagree, I suggest you question your own values around this issue. The level of endulgence parents have succumbed to to provide material things for their kids is staggering-- and doing them a disservice in the long run. Even when Grandparents offer to buy your kids computers, just say they dont need it. They really don't, if you dont believe me, WATCH THIS. Personally, we choose to have less technology so we can have more money for travel; kids learn more from seeing other places and cultures than they can ever learn from a device.
Consiter having ONE family computer that is permanently placed in the most high traffic zone of your house. For my family of five, we have one computer. Even while I was in University for three years (for which I used my iPad for everything except final editing of my papers), sometimes we had to trade off in order of priority; sharing and cooperation is a good life lesson, no? One computer is absolutely doable and managable. Privacy is not something that should be had when using the home computer (or thier devices for that matter). Our home computer is also on a passcode, so no one can use it unless I sign them in.
2) Limit the time spent on devices. This is a very hard thing to do if you do not have a wireless router that does the job for you such as this or this. Internet access should be a privledge, not a right. I can control when my kids have internet access via the website which can be controlled at home or remotely.
If your child is cooperating in the household by keeping their room relatively clean, cleaning up after themselves and doing chores without hassle and being a positive member of the family, then their alloted internet use time should be question free. However, if your youth is not doing these basic things *hassle free* then the internet is shut down until they shape up.
Shut internet connection off 1/2 hr- 1 hour before bedtime. Use of devices can shut off nessesary melatonin production, making it harder for them to get to sleep. See my article on sleep to see what time your kids should be going to bed.
Shut down during dinner time hours. We all know how important family dinners are, research has shown that eating together as a family is considered a "protective factor" which will reduce the likelyhood of your child going down an unhealthy path as they get older.
For school nights, I schedule my kids internet to shut off before bed and it doesnt turn back on until after school. Internet is turned on between 4-5pm, turned off for dinner, then they have between 6-8pm of free reign, so long as they are being positive, productive members of the family.
The American Pediatric Association recently offered guidelines, "Children and teens should engage with entertainment media for no more than one or two hours per day, and that should be high-quality content". By media they mean TV, computer, Video games, devices. thats TWO HOURS TOTAL PER DAY! So if my rules sound harsh to you, they are not even as stringent as the Pediatric recommendations.