Whether fondly or not, most of us can remember to some degree life before the internet and the introduction of many other modern technological conveniences. However, our children don’t know a life without them and in many ways technology has become an integral part of their lives at a very early age.
On average, children in America are spending over six hours a day “connected” to electronic media, including computers, television, video games and other electronic devices. While technology does have its benefits, too much of a good thing is not always a good thing. Here are several ways over-connecting can adversely affect children:
- Increases Isolation. Spending too much time connected to electronic media creates an environment in which children remain disconnected from those around them, especially family members. This limits family interaction and can create an emotional gap between children and parents.
- Hinders Social Development. Spending time with family members helps children learn how to interact with other people. Children who spend too much time with technology run the risk of not getting the personal face-to-face time needed to develop proper social skills to be able to relate to others.
- Invites Questionable Influences. While children may be disconnecting from those around them, they are still connecting with someone or something. It could be with unsavory strangers through social media or innapropriate content on websites.
Ways to Reconnect
To minimize these risks and to help keep “connecting” from disconnecting your family, here are three things you can do.
1. Establish Boundaries
Establish and communicate your expectations regarding technology usage. These expectations may include limits on the amount or type of media your children may use, the length of time they may use them, and times and places where electronic devices are not to be used. Once these boundaries are established, be sure to consistently enforce them and modify them as necessary.
2. Get Involved
Pay attention to what your children are doing. Stay connected and stay educated. Monitor their activities and keep the lines of communication open. These actions will show your children you care and will allow for constructive conversations that can help them make better decisions regarding what is appropriate and what is not as it relates to content and who they interact with online.
3. Spend Quality Time Together
Make the effort to spend “disconnected” time together. Eat meals together and engage in meaningful conversation. Schedule a family game night. Start a family book club. You might even consider “connecting” together, as long as it is not done in isolation. For example, watch a movie together, but make time to discuss it together as a family afterwards.
Childhood is fleeting. Family is a precious gift. Take the time to connect with and enjoy one another.