Think about some of your happiest childhood memories. Perhaps you recall summer camp-outs in the
backyard with flashlights and board games. Maybe you remember hot days on the beach building sandcastles and lazily watching the waves for what seemed like hours. Ski trips, sledding, basketball and football games, all of these memories bond together, creating a collage of childhood memories.
Now think about your children and how they spend their days. It seems the current generation often has its eyes glued to a screen. Whether we're in the car, at the doctor's office, or in the grocery store, our kids have access to mobile devices and games to keep them occupied. Is good old-fashioned fun still alive, or has it been replaced by technology?
The statistics are a bit alarming. A 2010 study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation showed that school-aged kids spend about 7 1/2 hours a day in front of digital devices like televisions, computers or
mobile devices. The American Academy of Pediatrics still recommends that children under age 2 have zero screen time, but even our babies are not immune to the influence of technology. Companies are rapidly developing interactive apps for babies, toddlers and preschoolers aimed at developing important academic and behavioral skills. Since the technology is relatively new, the results are still out. Is all of this technology helping or hindering our kids?
One of the concerns associated with all of this screen time is the safety of our children's personal information. Teens, especially, are at risk of exposing too much on social networking sights, or other gaming sights asking for personal information. Congress is currently looking at ways to change Internet privacy laws to include additional parental permissions.
Parents, educators and child development experts are also concerned that too much screen time is simply not good for our kids. Howard Gardner, a professor of cognition and education at Harvard's Graduate School of Education, maintains that there is still no replacement for real-life learning.
Achieving a Balance
Maybe your preschooler has recently learned his entire alphabet from an iPad app, or perhaps your cranky toddler will only be entertained in a waiting room by playing an Elmo game on your smart phone. The key might be finding a balance.
Parents should make sure to set time limits and boundaries for their kids. Parents need to take on the responsibility of knowing exactly what their kids are doing on any technological device. Balance technology play with plenty of outdoor time, one-on-one time playing board games and talking to your kids, sports and good old-fashioned family time.
Rules for Using Electronics
It's important for parents and caregivers to define a clear set of rules for daily electronic use. Think about the times of day when you feel it's appropriate to let your child play for a designated time. Maybe after school and work when you are feeling overwhelmed with getting dinner prepared. Offer technology as an incentive for when your child completes his or her homework. Set time limits and stick to them by setting a timer. The rules will vary by family, but the importance is sticking to them. For toddlers, make sure they are directly supervised while playing any type of games.