Family Unplugged: Is It Time To Cut Down?
With the explosion in 24-hour media access, our children are spending more time “plugged in” and the research about the impact that can have, is concerning. A 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation Survey found that children spend more than 7 ½ hours each day using different forms of media. They reported that by the time today’s young people reach 70 years of age, they will have spent the equivalent of seven to 10 years of their lives watching television.
Although technology has brought countless benefits to our lives, we need to be mindful of the downsides. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that media overexposure is particularly detrimental to children. The Academy has reported that too much media consumption increases the risk of aggressive behavior, interest in alcohol and smoking, earlier sexual activity, obesity and poor school performance. The Academy recommends that children and adolescents should limit media screen time to less than two hours per day. For children, under the age of 2, the Academy recommends no media screen time. In the first two years of life, playing, exploring and interacting with others is crucial to healthy brain development.
Is it time to evaluate how much time your family is spending on electronic media? We may need to first take a look at how much time we, personally, spend. A recent report indicated that 42% of children think their parents need to “disconnect” from electronic media when they are home! Stop to consider the following:
§ How many hours a day is spent watching TV or movies, playing video games, talking or texting on the cell phone or being on the Internet?
§ Do you have multiple television sets in the house and are they usually on?
§ Do family members often ignore each other because they’re tuned into electronic media?
§ Do you, your spouse or children feel lost without your cell phone?
§ Is the television on when your family is eating a meal?
§ Is anyone texting or talking on the cell phone during family time?
You’ve evaluated the time spent and feel it is time to cut down. Now what? Experts suggest the following:
§ Make gradual changes. Start with turning off the TV and cell phones during meal times.
§ Watch only TV shows that you really like. Otherwise, avoid channel surfing and turn it off.
§ Encourage other activities: a family walk, play a game or read a book together.
§ Call for a quiet hour in the house with no electronic media.
§ Remove televisions and computers from your child’s bedroom to create a “media-free zone.”
§ Set time limits that children can spend on electronic media and be consistent with it.
§ Consider an “electronic-free” vacation this summer.
The goal is to incorporate technology into our lives in a meaningful way that allows us to have a healthy balance online and off-line. If you’d like more help in finding that balance, please call your Employee Assistance Program at 402-398-5566 or 1-888-847-4975.