- Technology can have serious effects on our health, and Americans consume over 10 hours of media per day.
- Living technology-free is nearly impossible in this day and age, yet my wife and I decided to raise our son with very limited technology to avoid these risks.
- Here’s how we’re raising our son with very little technology.
In today’s world, it’s nearly impossible for anyone to live technology-free. The more pressing issue is how much time people spend in front of a screen – especially our children.
I watched way too much television growing up, got sucked into the rabbit hole of AOL chat rooms, and played Heretic online in high school. And now, as a writer and editor, I stare into a screen all day every day.
When our son was born, my wife and I agreed he would not be exposed to any screens until he was two years old – and even then we were skittish.
The American Academy of Pediatricssuggestslimiting screen time toone hour per day of high-quality programming from ages two through five. Kids ages six and older should have “consistent limits” on time spent with screens, set by parents.
When our son was approaching age 3, wegradually introduced clips from age-appropriate quality television programming: “Curious George” (which is designed to help kids learn) and “Thomas & Friends.” He watched these on my laptop.
As my son grew older, watching these clips became part of his bedtime routine. Soon, the clips turned into episodes. We would watch an episode of “Curious George,” which is two 12-minute episodes in one, with closed captions on. My wife and I would watch with him. To transition him to brushing teeth or reading books, we’d remind him that after the second episode, we’d move on in his routine.
It wasn’t until our son turned five that he started watching movies at home. First up, “Ghostbusters” (the original!). Now, we find ourselves watching one movie every weekend: “Captain Underpants,” the “Lego” movies, and “Night at the Museum,” to name a few.
At his sixth-year checkup this year, I asked our pediatrician about watching television and movies. As a “Star Wars” fan himself, he couldn’t say no to our letting him watch it.
He said that healthy viewing habits come down to two questions:
- Is the program age-appropriate / do you feel comfortable with him watching it?
- Are you watching it with him?
The latter, co-watching, is helpful because you know what they’re viewing and can turn it into a way for your child to learn. (We started playing a series of “Star Wars” trivia games, for example.)
Moderating tech use in a sea of screens
As a parent, I watch my own screen time as much as I do my son’s.
When I’m at the playground, I actually play with my child, or if I’m speaking with another parent, I have my eyes locked on his location. As I scan the playground for my son, I often see other parents sitting on benches with their heads down, staring at their phones.
Schools are a sea of screens, as well. Every classroom at my son’s public school has a smartboard, and they’re often used to watch videos. What happened to teachers teaching? My wife and I have already committed to sending him to a different school, still in our neighbourhood, where not one smartboard exists and children get to interact more freely with one another.
Additionally, Cleveland Clinic recentlyreportedthat astudyfound up to 42% of children have access to tablets, which may be contributing to eye strain and nearsightedness in children. “Nearsightedness progression is far more detrimental to children at a young age because this is when they’re developing their eyes and their eyes are still growing, especially kids in their teens and preteen years,” Dr. Mariana Eisenberg, of Cleveland Clinic, said.
As parents, we have to understand how detrimental too much screen time can be. American adults are alreadyconsuming over 10 hours worth of media a day, CNN reported. It’s common to see parents use iPads and other devices to keep their children occupied during dinner at a restaurant. Why can’t parents draw with them, read them a book, play I-Spy, or let the kids play with cars?
There are times, like travelling, when you need to cut yourself and your child some slack and simply give in to temptation. However, as with anything you want your child to do, it’s all about modelling the behaviour. So, if you want to limit your child’s screen time, think about unplugging yourself.
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