Technology plays an essential role in our everyday lives. The smartphone, for instance, connects us with others and the world and can even help keep us and our loved ones safe by facilitating instant connectivity and providing immediate warning of potential dangers, such as severe weather events.
Social media is another example of how technology can benefit us. It can allow us to connect with people who share similar interests and goals and provide a platform to advocate for that which is important to us.
Undoubtedly, technology can improve and enrich our lives when used responsibly and mindfully. So, when does technology become too much of a good thing? How do we determine when we as parents have reached “the limit” on our phone and screen time? The answers to these questions are as unique as each child and each parent. Fortunately, there are lots of resources we can use to answer these questions for ourselves.
A recent study commissioned by The Genius of Play surveyed 2,000 parents of children ages 5 through 18 about smartphone use. Half of the respondents reported that they had been asked by their child to hang up and hang out—in other words, put the phone away and be present. Moreover, over half (62%) of the parents reported that they are aware they spend too much time on their phone, and that they (74%) worry their child spends too much time in front of a screen. Encouragingly, however, 83% of families do realize it is important to spend time together without screens, although many obviously find this difficult to put into practice. (Read the complete article: https://studyfinds.org/role-reversal-children-often-begging-parents-to-put-phones-away/).
Take a moment to imagine your child as an adult. Ask yourself, what memories do I want my child to have, and what am I doing today to build those memories? Positive connections today pave the road to our child’s healthy social/emotional development and happiness and success as adults. These connections increase our child’s resiliency, self-esteem, sense of belonging and purpose, all of which feed positive memories. In fact, hanging up and hanging out together sends a transformative message to your child that they are valued, important, and loved. These are the memories our children will carry throughout their lives and that will give them the building blocks to a strong identity and healthy relationships.
Too much phone and screen time interferes with the natural process of the connection between and healthy child development. When phones or devices replace human interactions, important connections may be diluted, or worse, completely disrupted. As they learn how to self-regulate, children take social cues and learn interpersonal communication skills by watching their parents. If the parent/child interaction is competing with phone and screen time, who do children turn to as models for the critical skills needed to succeed? Keeping in mind that we have only 900 weeks of childhood, missed opportunities will add up and leave a lasting impact on the parent-child relationship and the child’s development. Hang up and hang out to build strong and lasting parent/child connections and healthy child development.
Making No Zone Parenting a Habit
Schedule quality time. The goal of quality time with your child or family is no disruptions or interruptions. This means undivided attention when talking, playing and eating with your child. With summer fast approaching, no phone zone parenting can become part of your summer plan and new routine.
Tips to get started:
- Agree as a family to put phones/devices away at least once a week for 20-25 minutes.
- Add daily one-on-one time with your child to existing routines:
- Put phones and devices away while driving to or from school.
- Ask about your child’s day during bath time.
- At bedtime, have your child tell you two good things about their day.
- Read a book together.
- Go outside, run around as a family, or kick a ball.
- During mealtime, brainstorm family fun ideas with your child, then pick one to do each month.
Things to do every day:
- Start and end the day by telling your child, “I love you”
- Notice and comment when you see your child making positive choices.
- Hug your child a minimum of three times a day
Parenting is both challenging and rewarding. In fact, you may not always be able to tell the difference in the moment, especially when managing a busy home and work schedule. Remember to give yourself grace, and be sure to give yourself credit for the wonderful things you are already doing.