A generation ago, “screen time” and “TV time” were virtually synonymous. Ability to influence what you or your family could view meant turning the set on or off, writing letters to your Congressional representative, or popping in a videocassette for a couple hours’ worth of tape.
Not so today, when even non-cable television viewers can access over a hundred channels; when DVDs and downloads offer you any episode from any series; when a video on any topic is a Google search away. And when screen-time options are no longer limited to the passive, but include real-time conversations, complicated role-playing games, and opportunities to toss off one’s two cents’ worth of opinion on a dime.
It’s a positive development in many ways—especially when one needs human interaction and the in-person options are limited—but it also has its dark side. Unscrupulous contacts asking for money. Biased assertions and unqualified “experts” who can sound as plausible as sources with legitimate credentials. And—closer to home for the average parent—kids getting lost in the digital world when the three-dimensional one needs their attention.
Signs That Someone Is Overdoing Digital Participation
The children (or adults) in your household may be getting dangerously “lost” in active screen time if they:
- Check their favorite sites first thing in the morning and last thing at night—and have developed sleep difficulties alongside that habit
- Can’t read “just one” online article—especially if it includes links
- Cite questionable assertions as established facts
- Neglect friends, chores, or hobbies because they’re “too busy” with social media or online games
- Would rather post about their real-world activities on social media, than give those activities their full attention
- Multitask by using their phones while walking
- Check every fifteen minutes to see if their last post has any new Likes
- Frequently complain that “nobody” views or shares their posts
- Get irritable, or complain of physical discomfort without obvious cause, when separated from their smartphones/computers for longer than usual
- Are becoming perpetually moody, developing chronic eyestrain, or gaining weight
Whether or not any of the above are current problems in your household, beware of ordinary screen time insidiously creeping into screen addiction.
What to Do About It
Here are some practical tips for keeping active screen time in its proper place.
- Have your family plan and schedule screen use as a group. Include a rule that everyone defines the purposes behind their activities—and what does not support those purposes.
- Set a “household screen curfew” that requires all computers and phones to be turned off well before bedtime.
- Schedule weekly “family time” with planned screen-free activities. Require that all phones be kept out of reach and turned off.
- To reduce physical problems from too much screen time, emphasize sitting in a real chair and getting up to stretch (and focus eyes into the distance) every half hour.
- Remember that parents set the example. Follow all the above rules yourself!
- Emphasize initiative and self-development as household values. The more you believe in these, the less inclined everyone will be to seek the screen by default.
KEEPING KIDS ACTIVE IN THE THREE-DIMENSIONAL WORLD
We at Shady Oak Primary are firm believers in active learning: working with children’s natural curiosity, having everyone participate, experimenting through active play and outdoor learning. If you’re looking for a school that understands better ways to educate than lectures and video, contact us today for a briefing on our approach.
Blessings to parents and children of all ages!