As little as eight years ago, Facebook was an idea, twitter was something birds did, and linking in professionally was done at face to face networking events. Oh! How times have changed. In less than a decade, our use of technology has exploded. Everyone has a smartphone, computers now fit in your purse easily, and everyone everywhere is constantly connected to the worldwide Web.
According to the American Association of Pediatricians, parents need to remain aware of what happens in the media or video games their children are using. For example, there are a number of games which involve role-playing, using imagination, and becoming a character to have an adventure. These are all positive qualities and positive skills. Where it becomes negative is when there is gratuitous violence or games are not won by imagination and skill, but through violent activities. Dr. Craig A. Anderson, PhD, distinguished professor of psychology at Iowa State University says research shows that: “What has emerged is that there are a few studies out there that have looked simultaneously at television violence effects and video game violence effects. And for the most part, those studies tend to show bigger harmful effects of violent video games than of, say, violent television, but there’s not a huge difference between those harmful effects.” In other words, both TV and video games can be equally harmful if not monitored or limited in constructive ways.
Remaining vigilant as a parent seems overwhelming in the offline world, let alone monitoring what goes on online. After all, the most advanced technology many of today’s parent had growing up was a fancy telephone answering machine with a cassette to record messages. For today’s parents, playing outside was free of the disruption of phone calls, text messages, emails, alerts, and other digital distractions. Many modern parents wonder if their kids are missing out on important life skills and relationships. So, what is too much technology for families? According to the American Association of Pediatricians more than two hours a day per child is too much.
Different is just Different
Every generation grows up in a world which is very different to the previous generations. This is not necessarily a “bad” thing. Remember when you were a youngster. Didn’t your parents disapprove of some of the things you did? Music? Talking on the phone? TV time? The clothes you wore? Everyone can easily make a list of the things their parents disapproved of. Everyone can make a list of things their parents disliked. Thinking back, are there any areas where they were off base? Any they were on target? Compare the things you did that bothered your parents with what your children are doing to keep your perspective. After all, choosing your battles wisely is an important part of effective parenting.
What the Research Shows
Two hours is the recommended maximum time limit for both video and television viewing. In a American Academy of Pediatrics online white paper found at http://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/Video-Games-Linked-to-Attention-Problems-in-Children.aspx, it clearly states that: “Researchers found children who exceeded the 2 hours per day of screen time recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics were 1.5 to 2 times more likely to be above average in attention problems. Furthermore, early adults showed a similar association, suggesting that early video game exposure may have lasting consequences.”
As much as the tidal wave of technology use can seem overwhelming, it really is not enough, as a parent, to simply give up, give in, and not do anything constructive about a child’s technology use. In addition to limiting television and video time to two hours a day or less, there are a number of instances where it is very healthy and appropriate to set technology rules and boundaries for your household. Here are more parenting ideas:
• Chores and homework must be completed before any video use.
• No cell phones at the family dinner table or between the hours of 5:00 and 7:30.
• No tech in bedrooms after ‘lights out’.
• Getting grounded from technology use or a particular digital device is a valid option – only, if it fits the misdeed.
• Video games, social media, and any tech should be used with time restrictions of a half hour or hour – kids have difficulty regulating their own use, so try setting a timer.
• Don’t be afraid to say ‘NO’ to a new technology device or gadget. That is your job as a parent.
Be a Positive Role Model
If you are spending far too much time on Facebook, or playing games on your tablet, checking emails at all hours, or answering your phone in the middle of dinner, you are modeling the exact behavior you dislike in your children. Try being a role model for good tech behavior by setting limits for yourself and putting aside some time to be completely present and in the moment with your family.
So, when is it all too much?
The bottom line is that there are many individual answers to this question. It all depends on your family values, who you and your children are as people, your child’s ability to balance the various aspects of their life, and your gut instinct on what will work for your family as a healthy boundary and limit. By thinking it through and using some of the parenting ideas from the American Academy of Pediatrics and those listed here, you are well on your way to the right answer which will have the most positive benefit for your family.