Sneaking a peek on Pinterest? Own it!
Exploring media with children more:
Get your children talking about smart phone, tablet and internet use! Involving them in the conversation about benefits and drawbacks can help them adopt a healthy approach to technology usage.
- What do we use smartphones and tablets for in our family?
- When is enough is enough?! When do we know we have been on our device for too long? This question helps adults and children recognize when they are noticing the unwanted effects of media: disconnection with family and friends, eye strain, "zoning out," being away from fresh air for a few hours or noticing emotional distress as an effect of media.
- Are there alternative ways we can solve this problem? In other words, go a week where Google is consulted after other sources (e.g., people, the library) are tried first.
- How frequently do we need to do "media fasts?" For some families it may be one weekend out of a month, for others, it may be two.
- Bring awareness to your usage by asking yourself a simple question of "do I need to check this now?"
Some additional related links:
- PBS Kids "When to introduce your child to a smartphone or tablet"
- American Psychological Association (APA) article "Smartphone = not-so-smart parenting?"
- American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) brief article on media and children
- NPR report of AAP's changing guidelines
- Common Sense Media - one of the best resources available. They also have an app that makes it easy to search TV shows, movies and other media to help parents determine if the show is right for their children and their family.
The downsides of using our smart phones, especially around children are real and are not to be dismissed. This photography experiment struck a chord with me and now I can't really be using my phone without picturing the image of what it looks like from an outsider's perspective and what my children are seeing. It is a slippery slope and soon I can sense the feelings the person with me may be feeling -- unimportant, left out, and ignored. It usually is enough to turn it off and redirect my attention. What often happens next though, is that nothing gets said. I may offer a quick apology or ask a question, "what did you say?" (while trying to shed feelings of guilt!) but the possible feelings of "you were ignoring me" are not really validated. I especially recognize this with my children but the feelings seem to permeate the air even with adults.
There are certainly times when we need an escape, or to connect with someone via text. But, expressions of planning, seeking partnership and explanation of why we are using our phones can begin to bridge the gulf of absence felt by those closest to us. For example, a statement of "I am going to look up on a map where the restaurant is so we can meet our friends for lunch" prior to opening Google Maps would help orient our companion to why we are pausing the conversation. Following, ask for our companion's opinion or thoughts about the map. "Look! I think I found it! Isn't it cool how I can see it on the screen like this AND I can even see a photograph of the restaurant?" For children, involving them in the work of using the directions can engender feelings of importance and contributing to the endeavor. In addition, acknowledging during times when we have been "in another world" using our phones is also an important step to bridging the gap. "I'm sorry, honey, I wanted to check to see if Aunt Laura returned my message," or "now I can give you my full attention." Or, owning the fact that you got distracted and now your child has your full attention. And then do it. Habit change is really hard, but it is worth every ounce of effort.