A Family Digital Diet

How should we manage kids and technology? How much time should kids spend on media like computers, smart devices, and video games? When does it enhance their experiences and when does it detract from it?

There are no easy answers. Every family and individual is different and we have to choose the best fit based on those unique circumstances. The best advise I can offer is to be mindful of your unique situation and craft the appropriate guidelines for influencing your children to be prosperous and engaged community members. Perhaps by reading the decisions I made for our family this will help you consider what works best for your family.

My older sons were subjected to my desire to follow the recommendations from the American Pediatrics Association to have no screen time before the age of two. Naturally, they would be exposed to some screen time in public or the occasional glance at a television or computer; however, I was very adamant to limit their early exposure.

My younger sons didn’t have the same experience. It was difficult to limit their exposure while trying to provide my older sons options to experience media as older kids. My third child got his own smart tablet with his older brothers at the age of two-and-half as a result of flying to Hawaii. I recall cringing as I saw his little eyes glued to the device for the duration of the flight; however, I’m sure my fellow passengers were delighted. Because I prioritize “together” time, I’ve elected to include everyone in Friday movie nights, including the one-year old, a decision I would not have made with my eldest.

For my school-aged children I typically limit their screen time to 30 minutes for homework related items and 15 minutes of “app” time per day. I reserve weekends for movies and video games. Typically we watch the movie together as a family and video games are usually played together for an hour or less. Occasionally TV shows are watched and generally sporatically and usually for no more than 20-45 minutes with a blend of mindless entertainment and educational shows. I emphasize chores should be completed, media is a privliedge and is earned, and spending time outside is the priority.

To some families, this may be way too much time and others to little. I notice some of my children adhere to my rules easily and other push the boundaries. Sometimes I relax the guidelines due to illness, having friends over, needing to get something done or inclement weather. The overarching theme I try to convey is that media is just like our diets, everything in moderation and being mindful of taking care of our whole being. In this way I hope to help them feel comfortable with technology, learn to self regulate, have fun, and manage their choices .

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