In a recent post, I shared some excerpts from The Atlantic article titled Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation? While my answer to the question would be no, I do think that we need to set clear boundaries with our children regarding their online habits. My feeling is that too many parents (myself included) do not model device use well. In addition, there is no discussion and/or game plan for the use of devices by their kids.
As we head towards the start of a new school year, it is a perfect time for families to find some balance in their technology use. Research conducted by Common Sense Media shows the following:
On any given day, parents of American tweens and teens average more than nine hours with screen media each day. Eighty-two percent of that time (almost eight hours) is devoted to personal screen media activities such as watching TV, social networking, and video gaming, with the rest used for work.
Common Sense Media also provides some great resources for families to help them construct a plan to gain some control over the time they spend online. Here are a few recommendations from a post on the downsides of multitasking:
Keep your kids on task. Limit them to one screen and one activity at a time (especially when they’re doing schoolwork), and reward them for sticking to it.
Model balanced media habits. Show your kid how you want him to use media by practicing what you preach. That includes not interrupting conversations with technology.
Co-view or co-play. Ask your kid to show you what she’s watching and playing. Sharing and explaining something challenges kids to think more deeply.
Establish media-free times and zones. Explain that at certain times of the day and in certain places in the house, media is not welcome. Use those times and places to focus on one thing. Kids need time away from stimuli to help them learn to focus.
Help your kid increase his ability to concentrate. Whatever activity she’s engaged in, encourage her to think or focus for one more minute.
If you are an adult who thinks that he or she can multitask, I encourage you to check out the Infomagical Bootcamp from the folks at the Note to Self podcast. I wrote about this back at the beginning of 2016 and came away a huge proponent of single-tasking. If there is only one part of this challenge that you try, make it the single-task challenge. It’s the day-one challenge and you can hear the 11-minute overview here.
The exact route you take to ensuring a healthy balance for you and your family does not really matter. The most important thing is that your family is having face-to-face conversations about the role technology is playing in your lives. By the way, when you and the people you live with are all home together, do you spend more time communicating with people online or communicating face-to-face with the people you live with? Just wondering…