The American Academy of Pediatrics issued an updated clinical report in Pediatrics recommending caregivers give traditional hands-on toys that stimulate imagination and creativity, such as puzzles, building blocks and cardboard boxes, to youths ages 5 and younger, instead of interactive electronic toys. The report also advised that those younger than 5 should only play developmentally appropriate computer or video games with parent or caregiver supervision.
From Common Sense Media
When a phone full of cute cat videos and funny memes is only a swipe away, it’s easy to forget what it was like to be truly bored. But science tells us that boredom is actually useful — for kids and adults. Not only can boredom lead to deep thinking, it can help kids practice perseverance, or pushing through uncomfortable moments without stimulation or distraction. And without boredom, kids might not take the time to explore their surroundings — dig in the dirt, wonder how a house is built, bake cookies without a recipe — and they might not stumble on something they really love to do.
What to do: Create opportunities for boredom by setting up times and places where devices are off-limits. And make sure kids have unstructured time — even a little bit — where they can roam the house or the neighborhood without a schedule. Keep a list of activities that kids say they like to do — from drawing to hammering to bouncing a ball — and point them toward it when they complain.
From Common Sense Media
How many of us have witnessed a teacher, coach, or grandparent try to make conversation with kids who can’t unglue their eyes from a screen? Of course it’s only polite to put down your phone when anyone is talking to you, but it can be especially embarrassing for parents who were raised to defer to the older generation.
What to do: Make your expectations very clear. Talk to your kids about how important it is to use good manners when you’re on your phone. Explain that it can be very difficult to put down your phone when you’re in the middle of a game or chat, but you believe it’s important to pay special respect to people like grandparents and elders. And of course, respect breeds respect, so put your phone down when your kid talks to you (unless it’s about how much redstone they need to build a castle in Minecraft, in which case it’s totally OK to ignore them!).
From Common Sense Media
The mere presence of a phone on the table between two people having a discussion has been shown to decrease feelings of empathy. Whether this is because the phone owner is distracted by the possibility of an incoming message or the promise of something more interesting on the device is unclear. But it makes sense that if someone isn’t giving you their full attention, they’re less likely to understand or empathize with you, and ultimately that can affect the quality of the relationship.
What to do: Prioritize face-to-face conversation over devices by putting phones and tablets out of site during meals. Recognize your thought pattern during conversations, and if you find yourself wondering about a missed call or guessing how many people liked your most recent Instagram post, refocus your concentration on your friend, spouse, or kid. And acknowledge how difficult digital distraction can be to manage yourself so that your kids understand that you think it’s an important challenge to wrestle with.
For many parents, turning on the TV the second they walk in the door or compulsively checking social media becomes a habit. Kids often develop unhealthy screen time habits too, by turning on video games before school or by getting on the computer the second they walk through the door.
Making a conscious choice to unplug for an extended period of time can break some of those bad habits. When kids get out of their environment and step away from their usual routine, they have an opportunity to develop new habits.
Here are a few strategies for creating a digital detox:
- A week-long break from electronics – A camping trip, a vacation in the mountains, or a week in a remote cabin could get everyone away from the electronics. Stepping away from technology could renew everyone’s appreciation for simple activities, like board games or playing catch.
- An electronics-free weekend – If you can’t afford a vacation—or you have a job that makes unplugging for a week seem like an impossibility—consider a digital detox on a smaller scale. Consider making it happen to unplug a few weekends each year.
- A monthly digital-free day – Perhaps the first Saturday of every month means no screens or the last Sunday of the month is a quiet family day. Commit to spending quality time together without using electronics for one day every month.
Stepping away from electronics for a few days can be a great experiment to see if it changes your child’s behavior. A short break could boost her mood (after she gets over the initial horror of not having her electronics) and increase her motivation to get her work done.
Of course, it’s important to be a good role model when it comes to electronics. If you tell your child to turn off the electronics while you’re sitting behind the computer, your words won’t be effective. So be willing to go through a digital detox with your child. It could be good for the whole family to step away from electronics for a short time.