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Published on April 28, 2020

kids sitting on couch gaming

Love It or Hate It: Technology and our Kids, Part 2

This is the second part of two blogs on children and technology. Read the first part.

In addition to the increase in the amounts of studies that indicate harm on to psychological well-being, there are many other reasons why it is good to unplug:

  • Obesity. Excessive screen use, especially having a TV in a bedroom, can increase the risk of obesity in children. Teens who watch five hours or more per day are more likely to be overweight than those that watch two hours or less. Part of this is attributed to the fact we are more likely to snack while watching media.
  • Sleep problems. Media can interfere with sleep, especially because we are exposed to blue light and stimulating content that can delay sleep, which can then create a negative effect on school work.
  • Problematic internet use. Heavy gamers are at risk for developing gaming disorder, which was recently added by the World Health Organization to the International Classification of Diseases.
  • Negative effect on school performance. Children often get distracted from their homework.
  • Risky behaviors. Teens may display risky behaviors on social media, such as substance use, sexual behaviors, self-injury and eating.
  • Cyber-bullying. It is easy for this to happen to children or for them to do it because a screen helps them to feel like they can say whatever they want. Cyber-bullying can lead to short- and long-term negative social, academic and health issues for both bully and target.

So what is a parent to DO about technology?

  • DO watch programs with your child and be aware of what they are watching and playing.
  • DO take time to play games and watch shows with them. Media time doesn’t need to be alone time. It can be a bonding experience for you and your child.
  • DO read up on the apps they are using. Utilize websites such as the Common Sense Media site.
  • DO model positive media behavior. If you are always on your phone, playing games or watching TV, then it will be very hard for you to enforce limits for your kids. Having time off from media is good for the parent/guardian as well. It is good to have tech-free times as well, such as mealtimes. Studies show that eating meals together and having conversations with each other really helps to strengthen the family bond.
  • DO have conversations with your children about what they are watching and playing. Explain to them why you might not want them playing certain games or watching certain shows instead of just telling them no. Explain that just because a setting may say it is private doesn’t mean it will stay that way. It is good for them to know that whatever they put on social media will always be there, thus don’t post or put up pictures that you wouldn’t want the whole world to see. Explain about sexual predators.
  • DO know who your kids are communicating with on their various media platforms.
  • DO tell them why it is important to spend time off of media. Set time limits and stick to them! Make a media plan utilizing the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) media use plan.
  • DO monitor what they are doing, and be up front about it. Something we said prior to my son receiving his first cell phone is that we are going to give this to you but we reserve the right to check it from time to time. We also set a time at night where the phone and other forms of media are put away for the night and NOT stored in their bedrooms.
  • DO talk to your kids. I am repeating this one because this may be the most important. Talk to them and make them feel comfortable in coming to you with anything that might be on their mind in case they do come across something inappropriate and DO NOT make them feel bad/ashamed when they come to you. Just let them know what safeguards you can help put in place so they don’t run into this again and make sure to thank them for coming to you.

Whatever your family’s take on media is; just remember like anything in this world it is all about moderation. Do what works for your family. Just make sure to pay attention to what your children are watching or playing. This will allow you to educate them and keep them safe, both mentally and physically.

By Beth Lucht, Family Life Educator, Women’s and Children’s Community Outreach Education, Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center

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