We are well into summer and children are enjoying their “time off from school” as they spend more time with family and friends. Summertime can be almost 3 months in length with family vacations taking up only a few weeks of that time. So what do children do during the time that they’re not actively involved in the family vacation? Watch TV, play on the computer, play video games, text to friends? It is easy for parents to think these activities are actively engaging a child’s mind and keeping them out of trouble. Too much time on any of these activities is putting your child at risk.
Let’s look at some facts. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF):
(1) two thirds of infants and toddlers watch a screen on an average of two hours a day,
(2) children under the age of six also watch an average of two hours of screen media a day, primarily TV and videos,
(3) children 8 to 18 years spend nearly 4 hours a day in front of the TV screen and almost 2 additional hours on a computer playing video games. That adds up to a lot of time in front of a TV or computer screen. All of that time is nonverbal with little or no interaction. Add to this, that in just a few short years texting has become the mode of communication with children. The average youth does 100 texts a day, and that adds up to over 3000 per month.
Why is this important? Children look occupied, they’re not fighting, they seem to be enjoying what they are doing….. so why should I be concerned? Here’s why! For children to be successful in school, work and in life they need to be able to interact with other adults. When you verbally communicate with someone you learn to read body language as a major source of input. We pick up on tone of voice, facial expressions, body movements and other signals that tell a lot about what the person is saying. You don’t learn these through video games and texting. This is a very important and an essential part of communication that parents need to make sure that their children are not missing out on.
So what can you do? Here are a few things that can help:
1) Create opportunities to give children a break from the television, computers and PDAs. Go to the library, museum, sporting event, pool or shopping but leave the technology at home. Hard to do but if they can’t spend their time texting then they might start talking and that’s good.
2) Limit the amount of time children can watch television or use a computer. Two hours a day might be a reasonable time frame.
You may want to review to previous blogs I wrote on May 11, 2015 “The Electronic Babysitter… could be harming your children” and on May 20, 2015 “Creating a Healthy Dialogue with children of all ages”. Remember the challenge as a parent is to get our children socially ready to interact with other people in effective ways.
If children are taught the skills that will help them deal effectively with others they are on the road to success. As a parent you have a wonderful opportunity to help teach your children to be socially smart and how to relate to others. With these skills they are on the road to being successful at school, work and in life.