Reminiscing brings to mind a time when children rode bikes, played soccer or basketball with neighbors, and built forts without parental supervision. Before dusk, mothers called out a child’s name, and were answered by a young voice seconds later. It was time when families talked about their day while eating a meal, and didn’t worry whether the answering machine blinked, or if calls went unanswered. Meals in those days were not to be disrupted. Evenings brought families together to watch television or assist in the task of washing dishes or folding laundry.
Technology has become an integral part of our lives. Day and night, phones are a hand’s-reach away. Parents should be aware that today’s children live in a vastly different environment.
- Distraction is a new norm.
- In educational writing assignments and when reading literature, imagination is now optional, if not inessential.
- GPS, Internet search engines, and apps such as “Talk to Text” and verbal commands have altered the need to use high-order processing skills that assist critical thinking, problem-solving, and memory.
Changing the Family Structure
The word “change” requires a different mindset and acclimating to new concepts. Going along with the routine, younger children often will follow the plan and even take it one step farther and hold parents accountable. Pre-teens and teenagers, on the other hand, may resist the idea of stepping away from technology, yet they appreciate the ability to contribute to new family expectations.
Ideas to Implement
Young children, who do not possess a phone, may ask for one only because they, too, want to be part of the technological world. Without such devices, children will seek to occupy their time some other way, whether it is playing video games, watching television or YouTube Videos.
Change is possible with the following ideas:
- Required Movement: The solution is not to ban technology, but to require movement. Grab the dog lead and encourage your children to take a walk around the neighborhood, or start family bike rides. Families also can pursue physical activities at home, or at a nearby park to instill better health habits and promote togetherness. Allow children to bring their phones. It is to be hoped that one day they will leave them behind.
- Open Communication: The definition of openness and availability needs to change. Busy parents can create times in the late evening and before bed to talk, share, and communicate personal questions or advice. Reading a book together or separately and discussing it often helps to broach challenging topics. Open discussions allow parents to understand their child’s thought processes and other ideas.
- Promoting Socialization: Dance, athletics, leadership opportunities, or a school-sponsored extracurricular activity are key ideas. Any experience that eliminates the need for technology allows children and teens to listen, participate, share thoughts, make decisions, and form friendships.
Abandon Technology Devices: When technology is not in our hands, we are engaged in the moment, talking with friends, thinking, writing, reading, and especially living. For young children, friendship is formed through the most uncomplicated chance meetings, except when their attention is on a hand-held device. Why not leave it at home, rather than taking it along to an appointment?
Technology may certainly be relied upon for directions, news, and information, but it also alters our children’s ability to think, make decisions, and problem- solve.
Start today and bring back the rule, “No phone interruptions during dinner.” Discuss what additional technology rules could be applied during homework and studying sessions, bedtime, and family time. Often parents can help their children step away from technology by merely encouraging them to take the cue and power down or walk away!