March 9 is the National Day of Unplugging and, let’s be honest, we could all use a day like today. Whether your kids know it or not, unplugging from their technology will benefit them as well.
Did you know that children spend an average of seven hours per day looking at a screen? According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), looking at a screen for so much time is actually harmful. Although there are benefits to using technology, some risks include obesity, sleep disturbances, Internet gaming disorder, substance use disorders and impaired learning.
- No screen media other than video-chatting for babies under 18 months
- 1 hour of screen use per day for children 2 to 5 years old
- Restricted and monitored screen use for children 6 and older
If you haven’t set technology restrictions in the past, then this may not be a walk in the park – but don’t let that thwart your plans to make your kids unplug from time to time!
Below are three ways you can help reduce your kids’ technology usage and convince them to do other activities.
1. Make sure there is a fun activity planned.
Don’t set yourself up for failure. When you approach your children and ask them to stop using technology and mobile devices, you’d better have some excellent alternative activities. These activities obviously depend on the ages and preferences of your children, but some examples include a family bike ride to a special location, a trip to the zoo or a beloved museum, a family-friendly volunteer event, gardening, a local day trip, bowling, painting or going to the library to read. (Be mindful that if you’re asking your children to unplug, they can’t catch an adult living in your house using a mobile device or computer, either!) It’s important and healthy for children to learn hobbies that extend beyond technology, as well as to get exercise and fresh air.
2. Set solid limitations on technology.
Read through the AAP’s guidelines listed above with other adults living in your house. Work together to create some technology use rules that everyone living under that roof can abide by. Make technology off-limits in certain rooms in the house and during certain times. Ironically, parents can use technology to control their children’s technology use. There is Google’s Family Link app, as well as a wide variety of similar apps that help parents monitor kids’ Internet and app usage and set time limits.
3. Out of sight, out of mind.
Keep tablets and video game consoles out of sight by storing them in closets, containers or other concealed places. Lead by example, so that means that the adults’ devices should also be hidden the majority of the time and your household should not have its family room television on for more than a couple hours a day. Buy indoor and outdoor toys that will inspire your kids’ creativity, skill mastering and socialization. These steps will create an environment where the children won’t think about video games, TV, tablets or mobile phones and will opt to play with toys, participate in hobbies or go outside during their free time.
Utilize today’s occasion as an excuse to get your kids to do other non-technology activities, or use this blog post for ideas for a future “unplugged” day you have planned. For more parenting tips and information, be sure to read Scripps Affiliated Medical Groups’ articles.