Not always a good thing
By Sally S. Creed, LPC-S, RPT-S
I have been talking to parents for years about the dangers of media use for their children. Children are given their own cell phones as young as five years old, and more and more children are becoming addicted to video games. Adolescents and teenagers have serious addictions to social media and it seems that they have no idea how to live their lives without posting their every move on SnapChat, Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. Parents seem to be at a loss on how to curb this addictive behavior in their children.
I was blown away recently by an article I read about the technology “superstars” and how they handle media use with their own children. You would think that the creators of the technology explosion would have every gadget, cell phone or game available for their children. But this is not the case.
In an article on www.cnbc.com, written by Sarah Berger on June 5, 2018, she discussed how Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and tech billionaire Mark Cuban limited their kids’ media use. If anyone understands the damage media use can cause, I would think it would be these guys. So what do they say about this?
Steve Jobs had dinner every evening with his family. They would discuss books, history and other topics and there was no iPad or computer at the table. His kids were not addicted to any devices. Bill Gates banned cell phones until his kids were 14, never allowed cell phones at the dinner table and he now limits the amount of screen time his teen gets before bed. Mark Cuban makes his oldest daughter turn in her phone at 10:00 p.m. during the week and 11:00 p.m. on the weekends, but he monitors her tech time with management software.
I have suggested to parents that their kids hand in their cell phones every night before bed and the looks these kids give me when I ask that is a look of horror. But I also hear kids tell me that one of their friends has texted them in the middle of the night and they have a long conversation with them. Imagine how that child performs in school the next day. By making sure you have your child’s cell phone in your possession, you guarantee that your kids will at least get a good night’s sleep without any interruptions.
There have been studies that show that too much technology use can hamper a child’s well-being, cause psychological difficulties and have negative physical effects as well. Media use around or after bedtime can disrupt sleep and have negative effects on school performance.
Many of the kids I work with have told me that they do their homework while using entertainment media (videos, music, social media). There is growing evidence that suggests this behavior has negative effects on learning. Research has shown that children and adolescents need adequate sleep, physical activity and time away from media.
Today’s children are caught up in an era of highly personalized media experiences. Parents need to do something to get control over their kids’ addiction to media. Parents can develop media use plans for their children that attend to each child’s age, health, temperament, and developmental stage. The American Academy of Pediatrics has developed a Media Use Plan (www.healthychildren.org/MediaUsePlan) that helps parents and children work together to decide on a media plan to fit their family.
Rather than deal with problems that arise from too much media use, make it a priority this year to help improve your children’s mental health by limiting how often they are watching TV, how much time they spend on their cell phones and how much of their day is spent playing video games. Oh, and this isn’t a bad idea for you parents to do as well! Let’s all focus on our families during this new year and have closer relationships and healthier, well balanced children.