There is no doubt that today’s children are growing up in a digital world. Cell phones, tablets, and televisions are easily accessible to people of all ages. Although technology definitely has its benefits, it can also have effects on the quality our relationships. When we are mesmerized by a screen, we can’t engage in meaningful conversations with the people around us.
In her book The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age, Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair addresses the impact of screen time on families. Listed below are a few of the steps she encourages parents to follow in order to unplug from devices and stay connected as a family.
- Keep mornings and evenings quiet. Start and end your child’s day by giving him or her your full, undivided attention. Children can tell when their parents are distracted, so avoid responding to texts and emails during these transition times.
- Lead by example. Set aside certain times during the day for online activities, whether it is to check email or participate in social media. By setting these limits (and sticking to them!), your child will see that technology is a part of your day but not a backdrop for it.
- Create “screen-free” zones. As a family, choose areas where devices are not welcome. The dinner table and short car rides are wonderful settings to chat about your day or anything else that might come up.
When setting screen time limits, provide children with plenty of hands-on alternatives to technology: outdoor play, board games, books, blocks, and puzzles.