If you know me, you know where I stand on this. Our kids are too sedentary and spend too much time on electronic devices.
The time on electronic devices leads to them absorbing content that might not be beneficial or even appropriate.
And, it leads to their introduction and engagement with social media platforms.
While the causal direction is hard to prove, the correlation is clear. Screen time and social media time tracks with more obesity, anxiety and depression in children, especially those under 14.
Girls are more adversely affected by this than boys.
On top of that, it seems like the schools are foisting the technology components on the kids earlier and earlier, making it harder for us as parents take a stand against it.
Now, I'll often get the rebuttal that kids need to learn to use technology early in order for them to be successful later in life.
My 75 year old parents grew up without electricity, running water or indoor plumbing. If they can navigate email and the latest samsung/iphone just fine, so can the younger generations.
Study after study shows that learning "analog", pencil and paper, leads to both better retention and comprehension than digital note-taking.
Technology only gets easier and easier to use. Kids need to learn the fundamentals:
- How to move
- How to eat
Rebuttal 2: Don't video games offer benefits like problem solving, mental agility, socialization, hand dexterity, decision making ability, etc?
I'll assume that's true.
But, do you know what also does all of those things?
Math, Piano and Soccer.
Or, martial arts, chess, chorus, basketball, gymnastics, etc. There are plenty of real world activities to meet those needs.
Rebuttal 3: But, all their friends have one.
So what? Their friends aren't your children or my students.
Some important research to consider:
- According to Washington University School of Medicine Adults spend 6.5 hours sitting. Teens spend 8. And, this correlates with screen time.
- The US National Library of Medicine notes that the average child is now spending 7-8 hours PER DAY on a screen.
- University of Montreal found that increased BMI (Body mass index is an indicator of obesity) correlated with screen time.
- University of Auckland found that lack of physical play (associated with increased screen time) was connected with mood and behavior disorders, stress and lack of social skills.
- University of Iowa found that too much time on digital devices resulted in poor concentration and attention span.
- Journal of Reading Research and Pediatrics indicated reading real books (paper and ink) lead to better retention and comprehension
If we let our kids--and ourselves--maintain this addiction, the outlook is not good.
I ask two things of you:
- Push back on your local schools to eliminate this use of portable tech and online sites for school work. Get back to "analog": Real books, notebooks, face-to-face human discussions. (Of course, writing papers on a computer makes sense)
- Get, or keep, your child involved in something physical. Of course MARTIAL ARTS is my choice and #1 recommendation, but get them doing something.
Finally, here are some rules I came up with based on guidelines from the WHO and others.
- Create a "phone jail" at home even if its for a finite period of time. For example, when I get home my shoes, keys, jacket AND Phone stay in the mudroom until after dinner and the kids' bedtime
- Do your best to have a "family meal" and absolutely no tech during this time
- Absolute max of screen time is 1 hour for elementary and younger, 2 hours for middle school, 3 hours for high school. This time includes school work. 0 is best, especially for the younger kids
- Come up with a morning routine so that the first thing you do isn't checking your phone / email
- Come up with a evening / sleep routine. All screens are off at least 30 minutes before bed. Allocate some time for reading and / or meditation
- NO SOCIAL MEDIA until high school. College is better
- Read to / with your child every day
- Sincerely ask you child how their day was, every day.
- Do something together on weekends, preferably outside, even in the winter.
- Have your child play a sport and / or take extra-curricular lessons of some sort.
- Get a DRAGON GYM FAMILY membership. :-)
Rant over, thanks for your patience.
President, Dragon Gym
"Be the coffee."
PS. Use the form below to find out more about the programs at Dragon Gym