"Put down your phone and look at me while you talk to me."
"Get those ear-buds out of your ears at the dinner table."
"Have you been on that all day? ... Go outside!"
Have you uttered these words, or something very similar, to children in your home? Do you struggle with some aspect of raising children in a high-tech household? I hope so! Because, I do. I hope I'm not alone!
It's a battle I confront every day, in and around my home. How do I allow my children the many benefits of high-tech devices but control them, so that they don't harm their growth and development, or preclude other activities like regular exercise and being out in the sun and fun.
As a father of three, I appreciate the value of "modern technology" and the use of high-tech devices. In fact they are necessary! They allow us to have a world of education and information right at our fingertips. I've spent many evenings with children, on the iPad, pouring over enough information to finish yet another book report or semester project. Having the world at our fingertips is a wonderful educational tool. Communication is another vitally important benefit of high-tech devices. I've been very grateful for a teenager with a cell phone. When she was in an accident, she could contact her father in seconds to get support. Modern technology, with it's high-tech devices is vitally important to embrace and take advantage of.
Despite these benefits, technology has it's obvious downsides. It can take valuable time away from exercise, fresh air, and more tactile activities that children need. It can expose children to inappropriate content, literally at their fingertips.
So, what do I do? What can we all do to control our children's interaction with high-tech devices? Here are a few rules I've instituted with two teenagers and an 11 year old:
1. No more than one hour of screen time a day.
2. No more than a pre-set data limit (my carrier will shut off data, on individual devices, when limits are reached).
3. No accessing high-tech devices in private areas of the home.
4. Only access high-tech devices in common gathering spots like the living room and den.
5. No high-tech devices at the dinner table or in the kitchen, while we prepare and eat meals as a family.
6. No apps or video games without spending an EQUAL amount of time OUTSIDE — sports, nature walks, riding bikes, playing in the snow, etc.
Easy right?! Not! Every day is a chore to live by these rules, but we are getting better. And, as we get better, things improve. Family conversations and interactions increase. Tension and arguments decrease. Overall health and happiness increase. So, try them perhaps and see if they work for your family. And, remember, get out and play! - Matt Radford