For today’s parents, it’s no secret that we are raising digital natives. The evidence is everywhere in our homes: tablets, gaming consoles, laptops, e-readers, and Smartphones litter our living rooms, bedrooms, and vehicles. Consequently, it’s no wonder that today’s teens spend a daily average of 9 hours logged onto social media or parked in front of a screen. And, they are not alone. It is believed that children as young as five spend around six hours plugged in everyday and shockingly, most of our sons and daughters start using the Internet at the ripened age of three.
We can admit that technology does have a time and place if used appropriately and in moderation. Our devices are empowering and offer unlimited access to information, ideas, and communication opportunities. However, we owe it to our children to help them disconnect from technology every now and then so they can also learn to enjoy precious moments away from the soft glow of a screen and outside stressors.
Dialing Back Technology: Helping Kids Disconnect
If left unchecked, our kids are missing out on experiencing the world that surrounds them and the benefits of unstructured time. Listed below are six strategies on how to help kids disconnect from their devices:
Create “technology free zones” within the home. Technology is everywhere. That makes it paramount that we allow our sons and daughters plenty of opportunities to power down and enjoy a few minutes of peace. Research has shown time and time again, that downtime is essential for people to recharge their attention, motivation, productivity, and creativity stores. One way we can help our children reap these benefits is to allow technology only in certain public rooms of the home, while preventing them from entering bedrooms or bathrooms. This will ensure children get a few minutes of uninterrupted peace and reduces the chances that a child will be mishandling their technology privileges. Also, we are safeguarding our child’s sleep, which is an essential need for raising healthy and happy kids.
Reclaim family time. Reinstating family game nights, nightly walks, or dinners can help family members reconnect and unplug for a few hours each week. Surprisingly, sitting down together to eat also feeds the mind. Research is finding a direct correlation between children and adolescents who eat meals as a family perform better in school.
Schedule time for technology. It’s not realistic to ban all of our devices, but one way can help keep our kids’ technology use in check is to set a schedule. Go ahead and allow family members to use social media, play their favorite game, or read that blog. However, only allow them a set amount of hours a day. Also, consider implementing a “curfew” approach and power down all electronics between 10 p.m. or 7 a.m. to reign in a child’s technology diet. The important thing is to choose what works best for your family and then stick to it. If you decide to allow for your child to use a cell phone, it is a good idea to look into phone monitoring apps so you can help your kids stay safe while teaching them how to use the phone responsibly.
Get outside. Encourage children to disconnect and head outdoors to help them reap the mental and physical benefits of nature’s green space. There is a continuously growing body of scientific evidence that has found exposure to fresh air boosts our well being in numerous ways. In fact, researchers have linked nature to cutting stress, helping mental focus, reducing hyperactivity, and even improving eyesight. Take a walk or just hang out in the backyard to connect with the Earth and take a breather from the constant barrage of technology.
Include Yoga in our daily routines. One of the easiest ways to help our kids disconnect is to teach them beginner Yoga poses. We can help them breathe, find their center, and stretch away the cares of the outside world for a few peaceful minutes every day. Learning to handle stress and disconnect is an essential life skill that will help our children live a balanced life and overcome adversity as adults.
Look for apps to help kids meditate. When we want to help our kids disconnect, the last thing most of us consider using is an app. Unfortunately, technology overload isn’t the only negative stressor in our kids’ lives. They have to contend with school, sports, family life, and best friend drama. Surprisingly, there are a variety of wonderful apps available to help our sons and daughters de-stress and unwind. Help them learn to meditate or relax by using calming apps to transition between a busy day and down time.
What tips do you have for helping kids disconnect?