As a parent, you are your child's legal guardian. But there is another type of guardian that you need to be. You need to be your child's guardian charged with the duty of protecting your child's innocence. You are the guardian of your child's childhood. Why is this important? Because in our technologically advanced society with smart phones and tablets within an armed reach of your child, we are oblivious to the fact that we are committing a crime against our children. WE ARE SYSTEMATICALLY ROBBING THEM OF THEIR CHILDHOOD.
Children who are swiping from the time that their chubby hands can hold a phone or tablet are losing out on real world experiences, and conversations and an innocence and simplicity that childhood should include. We all have seen how adept children are at figuring out devices. And parents love the fact that a device can keep a child quiet in a restaurant or at a family party or when a parent just wants a few minutes to check their own device. And often that minute turns into a half an hour, or longer. Think of the last time you took your children somewhere. Did they use a phone or tablet to entertain themselves? Was the use of the device sacrificing real life conversation with others? Were they missing out on a life lesson that they could have had? Maybe if the phone was put away they would have had a conversation with their grandpa and learned something new. Maybe you would have asked them a question that lead to a discussion about something they are curious about. Maybe you would have noticed at the restaurant that your children need a lesson in polite conversation or table manners. They are missing out on other things when they are constantly looking at a device. We parents need to reflect on what our children are missing out when they are interacting with a device instead of interacting with others.
Not only is it a proven fact that children are getting way more screen time then is good for them. This observation doesn't even take in to account that what they may be watching or playing can also have a negative affect on them. Games featuring violent themes, aggression against women, smart mouthed humor, or gruesome images can desensitize our children and convey ideas that we don't want them exposed to, and yet most parents don't even know what their children are doing while online. We tell ourselves that they are just playing games. But in reality they know how to search and find all kinds of things. So what is a parent to do? Here are my suggestions:
1. Less is more: When it comes to screen time, set limits on how much screen time you allow your children.
2. Educate yourself: Find out what your children are doing when you hand a smart phone or tablet over to them.
3. Explain: Let your children know why you think it is important that they limit their online time, in order to have real life experiences and form relationships with other people.
4. Protect: Don't allow your young children to be exposed to adult themed games or movies. Childhood is such a brief period in our lives and children deserve to experience a time when imagination and creativity and "happily ever after" themes are embraced and celebrated.
5. Read: Read books to your children. This is a pleasure that reaps great benefits to both you and your children. The stories you read, the bond your form, the shared experience, the exposure to a wider vocabulary, are just a few of the countless reasons to make it a daily ritual to read together.
I am not anti-technology. I firmly believe we adults owe it to our children to protect their precious minds and offer them real life experiences in their childhood that will fuel their curiosity, their imagination, their social and emotional stability and resiliency. And they won't get that with their faces glued to a smart phone or tablet.
Here is what they American Academy of Pediatrics has published about TV/Screen guidelines:
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