We live in amazing times!
I still remember when I first connected to AOL in the mid-90s, and what an out-of-this world experience it was. Computers, internet, cell phones, Skype, Facebook Live, Instagram – all of these things became such an integral part of our daily lives, that now we barely remember living without them.
As with everything in life, this comes with a price. More and more parents use technology as a crutch. I get it, we’ve all been there. Just last night, I gave in to my 6-year old begging to play on my phone while I was watching my 10-year old fence. I admit, I just wanted 10 minutes of peace and quiet. After all, how much harm can a phone game be?
Turns out, quite a lot! According to recent research, a modern kid (3-11 years old) spends 4-5 hours each day in front of a TV, iPad, phone, Xbox, and anything else that has a screen! That does not include time a child uses a computer for homework. Honestly, these numbers are alarming to say the least. It’s not even the fact that kids are wasting their childhood away in a virtual world (at least that’s how I feel about it), but there is growing evidence that increased screen time is the cause of attention deficit disorders, obesity, back problems, and even poor sleep.
So what can we, parents, do?
Personally, I’m pretty radical with my kids: no TV of any kind, just occasional movies on week-ends; no computer games other than chess, checkers, some educational games and a fencing simulator; no Xbox; and no phones of their own. I have no regrets on setting these rules. In ten years form now, I can’t imagine myself saying, “I wish my children spent more time playing computer games and watching TV”. I am a big believer in spending time in the “real world” (why does “Matrix” come to mind?), at least while they are kids.
So if you are concerned that your child has developed an addiction and is spending way too much time glued to a device, here are 11 ideas on how to pull your kids away from screens:
- Limit TV time for everyone in the family, not just your kids. Let’s face it, if your child sees you in front of a TV all the time, she/he is more likely to be glued to the TV as well.
- Eliminate TV from the car and instead play audio books for your kids. You can also do mobile karaoke (which is my kids’ favorite car activity): print song lyrics for them and play their favorite songs in the car.
- Bring back family board game nights. Kids love making their own schedule, so let them be in charge of making a calendar of game board nights and choosing a game for each night. Maybe you can have Monopoly Mondays, Scrabble Saturday, or Qwirkle Wednesday.
- Spend lots of time outdoors as a family, walking, biking, kayaking, playing sports, taking your dog on walks, etc.
- Fill week-ends with interesting activities outside of your house, such as museums, the beach, or historical parks (e.g. George Ranch Historical Park has phenomenal Texian Market Days Festival in October).
- Help your child develop a passion or a hobby. For example, a really cool and educational hobby is filmmaking. You can work with your kids on coming up with a short movie idea in any genre, help them write a script, rehearse, and play it out in front of the camera. Let them get their creative juices flowing!
- Do some simple science experiments at home with your kids. You can purchase science kits, watch YouTube videos, or you can watch Nutty Scientists Science and Reading Adventures video series, where we suggest a book to read and demonstrate a quick and simple science experiment related to that book.
- Give a new sport or activity a try. Your child might be surprised to find something they like that starts to becomes a huge part of his or her life. Truth is even if my 10-year old was obsessed with video games (and he is absolutely not), he wouldn’t have time for them anyway, because he spends every weekday at the fencing club, usually between 1.5 and 3.5 hours.
- Encourage your child to read. Spend a fun afternoon taking your kids to a bookstore, buy them books as birthday gifts, or go visit the local park with a picnic and a few books to read.
- Enroll your child into our Nutty Scientist Summer Camps or Parents’ Night Out. We have 10% off early bird discount through April 15 on Summer Camps (Use EARLYBIRD code at checkout).
- Set a good example yourself! If your kids see you with a phone in your hands 24/7, they will most likely feel that screen addiction is okay.