The fresh air and connection to the earth kept us healthy. We wore shoes or boots when we needed to, ran fast, played hard and never looked back. Because of my upbringing, we spent very little time watching TV, which seems kind of funny because my dad owned an electronic store and serviced TV's quite often as a source of income. We were not the kind of family that had certain shows that we watched faithfully, and my parents didn't on their own either. I recall them watching the news after we went to bed but that's about it.
Even as a teen, I watched TV shows or movies when I was over at my friends house. Spending time in front of a screen was honestly not one of my family's "go to" ways to spend our time individually or collectively. I guess because the habit never started when I was young, watching or responding to any sort of digital entertainment, whether a game or social media, has never really been my thing even now as an adult. I will admit that I am severely behind when it comes to keeping up with social media and I am currently trying to catch up. I choose to primarily see my screen time as a tool to learn something new or to get something done. I've always been conscious of being present with whomever I'm with or whatever I'm doing.
I'm not saying I am great at it, but I want to set an example for my children that they are what's important to me. As a mother of 3 young children, I spend most of my waking hours with them or out teaching other children. Doesn't any child deserve that same uninterrupted attention, regardless if my phone dings that I have a message awaiting? If I want to fulfill my daily goals, and continue to keep in line with my core values, then I choose to spend my time on the things I want to do and should do, as opposed to being distracted by whatever my device is telling me or trying to grab my attention about.
We are just intentional about setting a timer and then putting the device away when the timer goes off. I recently heard that 1 out of 3 children under the age of 18 want to be a YouTuber when they grow up and all I could think of is, "my children wouldn't even know what that is." Not that they don't know what YouTube is. They see YouTube as a tool for us to learn how to do something or to watch a movie trailer we want to go see at the theater.
Last year our eldest daughter took the idea of having too much screen time to the next level. She said she wanted to do her school speech on what the effects were of having too much screen time. She wanted to teach her peers something and have a voice for something that mattered and she thought this topic would do the trick. She won first place in her age category at school and moved on to the Legion competition in our community. We all learned so much more about this topic from the research she conducted.
The World Health Organization sees too much screen time as a serious problem for children. They feel that children under the age of 1 should not have any screen time at all and kids between the ages of 2 and 4 should have no more than an hour a day. Older children can suffer from Gaming Disorder or Electronic Screen Syndrome. I have seen and worked with children suffering from both these disorders first hand, and the negative results in behavior, functionality and low social skills is disheartening.
Other negative effects of having too much screen time are having focus issues, anger problems, changes in the physical form of ones brain, bullying behavior and poor sleep habits to name just a few. Because my husband and I have limited our children's screen time, even from when they were very young, we have found that they can watch an entire movie without getting bored or fall asleep. Their focus and attention lasts so much longer than that of kids who have lived for years with the TV on in the background and are playing a video game at the same time.
Our kids can sit still longer as they don't need as much stimulation compared to those who have spent long periods of time being entertained by flashy screens etc. on a daily basis. No wonder we have more trouble nowadays then ever before getting a child to sit for a few minutes and learn to read a book!
Social media can be such a useful tool but we have to be aware of its potentially horrifying effects. Too many people, kids and adults alike, are seeking approval from their peers by, who liked their Instagram post or responded to their Snapchat. We have been designed as social beings and we crave social interaction. The stats prove this to us. Teen pregnancies are down but depression issues leading to suicide and drug use have skyrocketed because at the end of the day, people of all ages are lonely.
They don't want to play outside or pull out a board game. They are addicted and it can be difficult to pull back the reigns. Take baby steps and start setting a timer. If there's a full out fit when they device is turned off, and believe me, teens have full out tantrums over this too, then you need a plan ahead of time for the prescribed consequences. The addiction is real. I let my kids know ahead of time what the expectations are. For example, I'll tell my kids that they each get to pick a 20 minute show to watch on the iPad and then we are shutting it off and putting it away. If anyone has a fit when the time is over, that person will miss screen time altogether the next time.
There has to be a consequence to the negative reaction. I am all about leading by example so you'll likely have to do this for yourself too. Perhaps a peer or spouse can help hold you accountable of your goals on shrinking down your screen time use. The great thing now is most devices track the amount of screen time you've had in a day or can give you an update of the average screen time you've had daily that week.
Try using authors, Chip and Dan Heath's Multiplying Meaningful Milestones approach to meeting your goals. This will be extremely helpful if you are a gamer as you likely crave reaching or meeting the next level. For example, level 1 - decrease screen time by 10% for a week straight. Once you've successfully met that milestone you move on to achieve the next one. Level 2 - only take out your phone during your work day to check it for 5 mins during lunch break. Work your way through several celebratory moments to say, level 15 - total screen time is less than 2 hours a day for 21 days straight. In no time at all you will have successfully created a new lifestyle habit that's attainable and sustainable.
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We are glad you enjoyed the article John!
Great article – I got a little emotional when I read about your daughter taking first place… This coming from someone whos heart is very well kept in a freezer at a 27 degrees Fahrenheit.