Updated: Sep 30, 2019
We want our kids to have the skills to thrive in life but, is seating them in front of the TV or screen from a very young age the best way to acquire those skills?
One may argue that our future work landscape requires skills in cloud-based computing, coding, data science, and plenty other technical capabilities.
When we are already fearing that ‘artificial intelligence’ is abolishing work previously performed by humans, it makes sense we want our kids to learn how to do it as early as possible.
So, what are we to do, as parents. raising post-technological revolution kids in the 21st century, where technology and screens ‘are and will be part of our children’s life’?
Kim John Payne author of Simplicity Parenting says:
‘If we want an innovative child, we will have a screen-free environment, because we want them to have their own ideas’.
Am I advocating for a complete screen-free environment?
What I am advocating for is establishing healthy habits and agreements whenever we choose to introduce screen watching (in my ideal world, after 3 years of age if not later), but most importantly, what I am advocating for is connection.
In terms of scientific research, a good place to start is to know and to be re-assured that our efforts in limiting content and the amount of time children spend on the computer or in front of the TV, can indeed make a difference in our children’s lives.
For instance, children get more sleep, do better at school and behave better. There are health benefits as well.
Another good place to start is to know that 'experts also point out clear evidence of a range of benefits arising from screen-based play. For example, video games can increase children’s tolerance to frustration’.
And to know that ‘addiction to the Internet as a medium does not exist, although the Internet as a medium may play an important role in making some behaviours addictive.’
Good news? Bad news?
I see it as a positively, exciting challenge. But a challenge nonetheless.
We live in a wonderfully digitally connected world, and this connecting can indeed be very positive; but it is a world that is also dominating family time, where children less than 2 years old are clocking 14.2 hours a week of screen time at home.
Kids 2-6 years old a whooping 25.9 hours, 6-13 years old, 31.5 hours. 67% of primary school kids and 36% of preschoolers own their own mobile screen-based device. 43% of kids regularly used screen-based devices at bedtime.
Yes, we have busy, increasingly stressful lives: To run a household, often without support, can become a multitasking frenzy of activity. Sometimes it may seem hard to imagine doing it all without technology.
Here are a few points to remember when we are grappling with wanting to make the most informed and best possible decisions for our family:
* The people who invented said technology didn’t have this technology. They invented it. Imagination and creativity will always be beneficial in our kid’s lives.
*Screen-watching ‘makes’ kids passive recipients versus active participants. Being passive robs children of the ability to be creators and so the vicious cycle begins: Expecting to be entertained at all times.
*Technology is super ‘intuitive’ these days, you don’t need years on end to learn how to use it.
*If you are catching yourself using screens as a babysitter, check in with yourself. Are your individual needs being met? Do you need support? What are two things you could do this week to shift things around?
*I like to treat screen-time watching similar to reading a book to my sons: A time to connect.
*Make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity and other behaviours essential to health.
*In terms of kids having their own hand-held devices. Take a cue from ‘executives that flourish on the success of technology’. Sleep deprivation, interference with relationships, radiation emission, aggression and increase of the risk for anxiety and depression are some of the reasons why Bill Gates’ - founder of the world’s largest software firm - children waited until age 14 to use mobile phones.
*Ask yourself, why do we feel the need to keep kids entertained at all times?
Why the need to distract them? What is the life-skill there?
Technology research continues to grow and there is still a lot to learn about the long-term consequences of screen use and the impact on the brain, but this we know:
Nothing, in the whole wide world would beat talking, interacting and building a relationship with your child.
Nothing, in the whole wide world will ever be a substitute for a parent’s attention and time.
It’s a choice. Choose wisely.
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Resources and further reading:
Protective Effects of Parental Monitoring of Children’s Media Use. 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2014.146
Limiting screen time improves sleep, academics, behavior, study finds. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140331170414.htm
Internet addiction: Reappraisal of an increasingly inadequate concept. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/cns-spectrums/article/internet-addiction-reappraisal-of-an-increasingly-inadequate-concept/59A556E1F9168A8291FE5E936DE77EEB
Does the construct of Internet addiction reflect a single entity or a spectrum of disorders?
RCH National Child Health Poll. Screen time: What’s happening in our homes?
Billionaire tech mogul Bill Gates reveals he banned his children from mobile phones until they turned 14.
Brooke Shannon. That smartphone can Wait Until 8th.
The Wait Until 8th pledge empowers parents to rally together to delay giving children a smartphone until at least 8th grade. By banding together, this will decrease the pressure felt by kids and parents alike over the kids having a smartphone’. https://www.waituntil8th.org