Kids and electronics: Giving kids the break they need

babyipad_jpgSchool is out, which equals no homework and lots of free time. On the last day of school, my son came home jazzed about our upcoming summer plans. But he soon had plans of his own: He immediately picked up his iPad, and then moved to computer games and online videos.

His face remained transfixed on screens until bedtime, and he couldn’t be bothered to do anything else. In fact, he got quite irritable when I suggested that he take a break or help me with some chores. Sheesh!

Does this remind you of your child, or children?

Electronic device overload

When 20 minutes stretches into a 7-hour marathon, electronic devices can become detrimental to your child’s well-being. Grades can take a nosedive, physical health suffers with weight gain and sleep deprivation, and moods often swing heavily when screen time is reduced.

What’s a parent to do? Try these tips and tactics:

  • Make firm rules and stick to them. You are the boss.
  • Put your own devices away. Set the example.
  • List strict times when devices are off limits (family meals, before bed, while doing homework).
  • Limit the total amount of time allowed on devices per day or week.
  • Keep track of kids’ devices when they’re supposed to be doing something else.
  • Have “Tech-Free Family Time” with game nights.

Get them outdoors

Overuse of electronic devices can cause children to lose interest in other hobbies. Take your children outside and remind them what fun there is to be had on outdoor adventures. Ride bikes. Go for a nature walk.

Pitch a tent in the backyard and encourage them to “camp” all summer. Get them involved in a team sport or activity they enjoy. Spending time outside and interacting socially with others can promote children’s healthy development.

Be in the real world

Young children may throw tantrums. Teens might sulk. If you’re going from no rules on electronics to these general guidelines, it might take some time. Hold your ground, and soon your child will experience how engaging and interacting with the “real world” – and with you, friends and siblings – has more rewards than any video game can give.

We’ve now limited our son’s iPad use. And yes, he was upset at first. Over time, his naturally sweet and social personality came back fully with hugs and cuddling next to me on the sofa. Is there anything better than that?




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Lisa Engber-Shomo