Are Your Kids Tuning In or Tuning Out?

Lately, we've been reading up on how technology (computers, cell phones, videos games, social media, text messaging, etc) is affecting kids and their ability to focus on school work. It's worrisome to read how grade point averages are going down, attention deficit is going up, and the pressure to be in-the-know is at an all-time high for 'tweens and teens.

What we found particularly interesting were the opposing quotes from parents. Some said their kids need to consume 4-8 hours of digital life a day because it will help them in the long term. Their feeling was, those who stay on top of digital trends and media are the ones who succeed in the world. Other parents are worried the mass consumption keeps kids in front of a screen and not moving around or engaging in face-to-face activities or conversations. Their belief is that passive entertainment is not how the real world works. But here's something every parent–regardless of what side they're on in the digital divide–needs to know: "The primary use of technology by young people is for entertainment." This NY Times article talks about the need for a "healthful digital diet" for kids. We've made a list of our favorites below"

  • Keep the passive and active entertainment in balance
  • Challenge your children to keep their technology under control
  • Have them surrender cell phones during homework, meal and bedtimes
  • Keep a close eye on computer time when used for homework research needs
  • On the weekends, balance computer/TV time with physical activities and family time
  • Teach older children how to manage phone/computer time properly (try a schedule or a timer)
  • Make sure you're following the same rules you've set for your children
  • Keep computers/TV/phones in common areas like the kitchen or living room, where you can monitor usage and activity

The most important thing is, whatever rules you set, make sure you stick to them! With older kids, it might be fun to try a 30 day digital diet. Or a weekend digital fast — how long can they go without sending a text or commenting on a Facebook photo? Every good challenge deserves a reward, but make sure this one is active: a trip to the mall, to a sporting event, the bookstore, a sleepover with a friend — whatever gets them engaged in the real world for a time. Remind your teens that technology will always advance, but, if they're not paying attention, life can pass them by.

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