There was time, believe it or not, when children went to playgrounds and rode bikes with their friends. They played tag and built forts; They ran and jumped and swam and socialized. Can you believe they did all of this instead of spending their time playing games and watching videos on Youtube?
The real question is this: has technology improved our kid’s attunement and empathy with others or is it adding to their self-absorption and isolation?
Tuned-in and Out of Touch
Modern-day kids have instant access to so much information. With endless data at their fingertips, kids can breeze through entire libraries or view their home from outer space. A tap or a click can deliver facts and statistics that would have taken hours to find in books.
While technology has expanded our knowledge of the world, advanced education and remarkable medical breakthroughs, it is quickly becoming a source of conflict between parents and their children.
Some kids are not slaves to technology. These kids tend to lead full lives filled with hobbies and numerous activities such as school clubs, social events, sports or music practice. To them, technology is just another activity.
For other kids, technology devours their lives. They can’t put it down or turn it off. According to Psychology Today, “These kids tend to be more isolated and anxious, have poor people skills, difficulty maintaining friendships or an unstable sense of self. For them, technology is just another way to avoid a frustrating world; a world that they have difficulty handling.” Unfortunately, the more connected they feel to technology, the less connected they feel to the people around them.
Like any addiction, as dependency increases, personal functioning decreases. Kids become more impulsive, moody, and less empathic. As their appetite for more tech time grows, clashes with parents increases.
In my opinion, tech-addicted kids are more likely to suffer from mood swings, social isolation and depression.
The biggest problem with technology is simple: it doesn’t turn itself off. Setting limits on unhealthy behaviors is a crucial part of parenting. This may make you unpopular with your children but it is important.
Here are some basic recommendations for parents who have a child obsessed with technology. Of course, every kid is different; what works for one child, may be a disaster for another. Consider this list a jumping off point for discussion to help you get started.
- Tech Blackouts
Set aside specific times at home when no one (parents included) uses technology. Cell phones, computers, ipads…everything is off. If you want your kid to be less tech addicted, you must lead the way. Tech-free time can be spent reading, talking, playing games, cooking, making art…anything creative or social will do.
- Tech Hours
Kids resist structure — but fall apart without it. Technology needs limits. For instance, I often recommend that families establish tech hours; time for homework, gaming or surfing the net. Scheduling tech time will help to limit battles by setting clear guidelines. For instance, when it comes to gaming, many parents may allow thirty minutes a day during the school week and two hours a day on the weekends.
- Tech Spaces
When possible, keep all technology in a common space like the living room — not in a child’s bedroom. Establish communal places for tech time; try to avoid allowing your kid to disappear for hours behind a closed door.
- Tech Limits
There are plenty of on-line services that can filter out inappropriate or violent material. These services can also limit Internet access by scheduling times that Internet is available and times when it is not. One example of such a service is Net Nanny.
The bottom line: parents must control technology or risk technology controlling their kids. Technology without supervision is not healthy for any young person. When staring into a glowing screen replaces meaningful communication in a child’s life, he or she may suffer socially.
Find the right balance for technology use in your home and eliminate tech addiction in your child’s future.