It is now not uncommon to see a group of young people all sitting around a table with their heads down staring at screens. Many children and young adults have developed an (unhealthy) attachment to their electronic devices that may border on addiction. As adults, we so often think about the effects of our attachments to our devices, but what about our kids?
The amount of time that kids are spending on their cellphones and tablets is rising at an alarming rate and comes with many health and social consequences. While we are indeed living in a digital era, and it can be important to understand how to navigate current technology, parents must set boundaries for their children and develop techniques to mitigate the damage that this attachment can cause.
This concept has been classified as a ‘digital detox’ and is aimed at improving the health and wellbeing of everyone that has an unhealthy relationship with (or dependency on) electronic devices. By helping to structure our children’s usage, we might learn a thing or two as well.
Recognizing Negative Behaviors Associated With Digital Devices
The first step to coming up with a digital detox plan is to understand whether there is a problem. Some signs that a child is too attached to their devices are when a child depends on the device as their sole source of entertainment, when there are repeated battles with the child over the use of electronic devices, and when visible side effects are occurring that can be directly traced back to the addiction.
It is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics that children spend no more than two hours per day on electronic devices. Unfortunately, estimates show that the average child is spending closer to seven.
Why Is Now An Issue?
When electronic screens are everywhere, it becomes harder and harder to enforce a policy where children don’t constantly look for one. When a child is constantly watching television shows, streaming movies, playing video games, and using their electronic device for all kinds of entertainment, it may be time to consider a digital detox.
Many times, the bad habits of children are learned from the adults in their life. When a family is spending more time interacting with their devices than with each other, this normalizes the behavior and the children will mimic it. Texting a child from another room instead of calling for them or walking over to them, sleeping with phones and tablets next to the bed, and allowing electronics to be used at the dinner table are all signs to children that the electronic devices are just as important as family.
What Are The Effects Of Excessive Screen Time?
After understanding that there is a problem, the next step is to understand what the consequences of these problems can be. A lot of research has been done and is currently underway to uncover the effects that this sudden rise in screen time may be having on children.
Many negative behavior patterns have been linked with excessive screen time use. These include sleep problems that can lead to erratic behavior, social problems such as a lack of ability to empathize and understand emotional cues, and increased overall aggression.
Performing a Digital Detox
Once the problems that can arise from being overly attached to electronic devices are clear, what should be done about it? Research has proven that time away from these devices is beneficial for children.
It can improve their ability to socialize and understand other people better.
• It can encourage kids to avoid delaying more important activities due to their constant need to be connected to their device.
• It can break bad habits such as young adult’s growing addiction to pornography and their unwillingness to try anything that isn’t immediately gratifying to them.
• It can get kids outside exercising and help to make them healthier mentally and physically.
Overall, stepping away from electronic devices allows children an opportunity to develop better habits.
To perform a digital detox and reap some of these benefits, several strategies can be deployed.
One is to take an entire week off to go do something fun
Taking the children on a trip somewhere exciting where they won’t have exposure to technology can make a huge difference in their lives. Going to a cabin in the woods or on a mountain trip can turn something that might seem horrible for them into a great experience.
Another strategy is to pick a few weekends every year and plan activities at home where everyone has to unplug. Alternatively, picking one day a week can also be attempted.
Taking a break from technology can do a lot of good for children and improve all kinds of physical and mental issues they may be having. Once they experience that enough times, they may be able to take the initiative on their own and perform their digital detoxes.