Direct the Device, Don’t Let the Device Direct You
Devices are an intricate part of our world, and they offer us, and our children, the opportunity to spend hours lost in the world of screen time.
According to MedLine Plus, "Screen time" is a term used for activities done in front of a screen, such as watching TV, working on a computer, or playing video games. Screen time is a sedentary activity, meaning you are being physically inactive while sitting down. Very little energy is used during screen time.
Multiple studies have proven the negative effects of screen time on children. Just Google ‘the effects of screen time’ and in less than three-seconds you have access to about 254,000,000 results. Crazy, right? But, the reality is the screens are part of our lives and the world. I’ll admit, I clicked around on a few of those millions of options and some of the findings made me feel guilty for allowing my children to have access to any device. But, I also know devices are not going away. So, as I learned about the negative aspects, I also began looking for ways to incorporate the devices in our family in a healthy, productive and constructive way.
This summer I went to the Texas Parent Teacher Association (PTA) Conference and attended a session hosted by Google. During the session, the presenter encouraged parents not to give their children devices as a gift. Instead, he recommended when a child asks for a device have the child come up with a contract outlining how and why they plan to use the device. The contract should also include days and times of the week when the child is allowed to use it, as well as consequences for not using the device as outlined in the contract. This teaches children responsibility. They learn how contractual agreements work, they learn about negotiation and they learn how to honor things they are given.
The representatives also provided attendees a copy of the Google Be Internet Awesome Family Guide which offers advice on how families can incorporate and practice good digital habits. I recommend this guide as a great starting point for establishing contractual guidelines for your children and their devices.
The reality is, it’s a privilege to have a device, not a right. We want our children to be connected, but we want them to be connected in a healthy way. Therefore, we as parents have to take an active role in establishing guidelines and boundaries for the devices, as well as consequences for when those guidelines and boundaries are violated. Let’s direct our devices and not let our devices direct us.
We’re all here to learn from each other, share some ways you have set healthy boundaries around devices in your household.