Technology has become extremely popular in recent years. Fewer than 20 years ago, there was no such thing as smartphones, cellular phones were not very common, and fewer families even owned a TV or computer. Nowadays, it seems as though everybody has a smartphone. From the elderly to children in grade school, we all own smartphones and carry them with us wherever we go. In order to distract infants and small children, we use our phones, tablets, computers, and TVs to distract them.
For the most part, the popularity of technology is very beneficial. Parents know where their children are and can communicate with them easily. Children can connect with their friends and be more social. Young children can play games, learn motor skills, and be distracted by TV shows. Not to mention the convenience of GPS, having the internet in the palm of your hand, and the ability to make notes of important things on the go.
There are, however, some drawbacks. Children, for example, are suffering from addiction to their phones and social media. Rates of depression are increasing due to frequent technology use. Sleep patterns are disrupted. People are less social, especially when surrounded by strangers that they otherwise might have spoken to.
If we’re not careful, technology can easily do more harm than good. For parents, it’s up to us to make sure our children are using technology in the right ways. It’s up to us to protect them from the potential negative impact that technology can have. And one of the best ways to do that is to teach them to use technology in moderation. This summer, consider setting some rules for how often your children can use technology. Here’s how you can effectively make this summer (relatively) screen-free.
TEACH THEM WHY LIMITING SCREEN TIME IS IMPORTANT
It’s always a good thing to explain to your kids why you set the rules you do. When it comes to technology use, many children won’t understand why it’s being limited. After all, they’ll think, all it does is make everybody’s lives easier! Your children will probably have a difficult time realizing the (potential) dangers of constant technology use, so it’s essential that you talk with them about how technology can negatively impact their lives if they’re not careful. Let them know the research-based facts such as:
- Social media use can have adverse side-effects, such as irritability, feelings of loneliness and/or worthlessness, difficulty concentrating, a sense of social isolation, and other mental health problems.
- Frequent phone use has been shown to increase levels of stress and anxiety.
- Staring at screens for too long can damage your eyes. The effects of blue light are damaging, and long-term exposure to it can cause macular degeneration and other vision impairments.
- Using technology exposes you to light that interrupts your sleeping patterns, which in turn negatively impacts other areas of health and wellness. Everybody needs sleep, and following a consistent sleep schedule is important.
- Phone addictions have been shown to impair mental health, including judgment, memory, focus, and concentration.
SET CLEAR RULES AND EXPECTATIONS
Setting clear rules and expectations is key. You will need to make very clear to your children how you expect them to interact with technology, including guidelines such as when they can use it and what they can use it for. Here are a few general ideas as to rules you can set:
- No phone use after 10:00 pm
- No phones at the dinner table
- No phones when you are spending time with friends and family
- Only 30 minutes of social media per day
SHOW THEM HOW TO HAVE FUN WITHOUT SCREENS
Once they understand the importance of limiting their screen time, they will be much more likely to comply with the new rule. However, their understanding won’t cure their newfound boredom, so it is crucial that you also help them realize that it is entirely possible to have fun without involving technology of any kind. A quick internet search will help you find hundreds of fun activities to do with your children that don’t involve staring at their phone. Once they realize how fun life is without a screen, they will likely make a habit of limiting their own screen time—a habit that will serve them well throughout their entire lives.
It’s absolutely possible to have a fun summer without screens with your kids. A transition, sure. You may have to butt heads with your kids a few times, but ultimately, you will all have a more enjoyable and memorable summer with less screen time!