When screens are everywhere, it’s hard for children to learn the value of disconnecting from technology.
Research has shown that unplugging can lead to deeper relationships, and healthier minds and bodies.
Excessive use of technology, however, can have adverse effects on their mental and physical well-being.
The Effects of Technology on Children’s Development
Current research emphasizes 3 areas of concern regarding excessive screen time on children’s development.
Shortened Attention Spans
Too much screen time has been linked to shortened attention spans in children.
The CHILD Birth Cohort Study compared the attention spans of 5-year-olds who had less than 30 minutes of daily screen time, to children who had more than 2 hours of daily screen time.
The findings indicate that children with more than 2 hours of daily screen time were 7.7 times more likely to meet the criteria for ADHD.
Irregular Sleep Patterns
Research has shown that when kids spend more time on their devices, they aren’t sleeping as well.
For starters; screen time is sedentary time, and if children aren’t burning their energy during the day, it is harder for them to sleep at night.
Blue light, which comes from computers, phones, and tablets, affects melatonin levels and makes children feel less sleepy at the end of their days.
Also, if children are in the habit of continuously checking their devices, they may be too distracted to go to sleep altogether.
Poor Social Skills
More time on the screen means less time socializing in-person. Research shows that face-to-face interactions are crucial for children’s development of social skills.
Empathy, turn-taking, and understanding body language are best learned through interacting with peers in-person.
Excessive screen time has been linked to several disruptive social behaviors, such as bullying, the inability to help others, and difficulty interacting with others.
Children can avoid falling into these pitfalls with boundaries and limits placed on their screen time.
It’s not going to happen overnight, but eventually, children will appreciate the benefits of connecting with the people and places around them and putting down their devices.
The best place to start is by empowering children to unplug, which is way easier said than done.
With all they have access to on the internet, it is understandable that children are choosing the screen over nature, art, and family bonding.
Activities that Encourage a Tech-Free Lifestyle:
So, what do your children like to do without their devices? If nothing comes to mind, no problem. Here are some ideas to get you started.
All parents know that everything’s better when children play outside, without their phones and tablets.
Even older children can participate in activities such as hiking, biking, and playing sports.
If your kids aren’t used to being active, start by eating meals in your backyard or packing a picnic and eating at the park. Any amount of time outside is beneficial to children.
Nature teaches us to slow down and observe — listen to the woodpecker peck a tree, watch the squirrels chase each other on the grass. Eventually, children will learn that unplugging allows them to witness natural wonders that you just can’t get from a screen.
You never really know what you’re going to get if you give a child a pen and paper. Will they scribble? Draw a flower? Or a detailed diagram of their favorite car?
The arts offer many possibilities, such as writing, sculpting, painting, or even origami. Go to a craft store with your child and see if anything sparks their interests.
Getting involved in art projects teaches us to value what our own minds can create, without a screen.
Unplugging makes space for family bonding. When children are in stimulating environments in the real world, they may not feel as drawn to the virtual world.
Cook meals together, play board games, plant an indoor garden or conduct science experiments.
Children learn by doing, and there are a ton of fun and interesting activities that can be done completely independent of screens.
If you make it a point to add family activities into your routine, even just once or twice per week, screens won’t be on as much, you will all learn new skills, and deepen your bonds as a family.
Tips for Parents
So, what now? There are little things you can do every day to help your children unplug.
- Set a positive example.
Your actions speak volumes, and if a child sees how amazing you are at unplugging, they will learn to do the same.
- Prioritize tech-free activities.
Try out some of the fun activity ideas listed above, and keep going back to the ones that motivate your child to put their devices away.
- Help children manage their use of technology.
Children may need help recognizing when too much screen time is too much.
If you start feeling like a broken record, there are even some great Apps to help manage screen time.
The Bottom Line
Children can’t escape the screens in their lives, but there are steps we can take to make sure that screens don’t negatively affect their well-being.
Disconnecting and unplugging from technology can allow children to discover all this world has to offer and develop new skills and relationships that their devices can’t give them.
It’s going to take some trial and error, but with your guidance, children will find ways to balance their use of technology with all the other great activities in their lives.