The weather finally let up long enough for my husband and I to take our toddler to the park and boy was she excited! While she dug in the muddy rocks and climbed up the stairs to the slide, several teenage boys walked into the little gated park. I was worried they would cause some trouble, however, they proceeded to sit on the swings, one next to the other, and pull out their smart phones. I was shocked that the first thing they wanted to do was play on their phones when they were right next to each other and could have played tag, tug of war, or built a fort. I looked over at my husband and said, “I don’t remember doing that as a kid!”. We eventually started back home and even my husband, while pushing the stroller, was on his phone. My head spun with the realization that this was a huge problem, not only for kids, but even adults in every generation. We are so consumed by what this little box can tell us that we are missing the big picture of everyday life! No wonder children get in trouble, marriages are falling apart, and people lack basic communication skills. So, what can you do as a parent with children and maybe even spouses that have the phone, computer, or Ipad glued to their hand?
First off, be the example.
I know sometimes work or that interesting story on Facebook can seem more important, but when your spouse wants to talk or your toddler is tugging on you to come build blocks or play dolls, GO! For the love of all things good, GO! Your spouse will be appreciative that you chose to have some quality time with them and your child will understand that everything has a place and that they ARE MORE IMPORTANT than whatever can wait on your device.
Set time aside for your digital work, especially if you have to do work at home or you work from home.
Being a blogger, I have to wait until my kids are in bed and my husband is at work to get any good content out. Having a toddler makes it almost impossible to be pressing buttons and not have her right in my lap “helping” bring you this dgjhksdgjndsvk siu fsjdg sdg sjdn. You see what I mean. This makes my life less stressful because I’m not trying to balance spend time with husband before he goes to work and take care of baby who needs me, what seems like, every second. I also have more time to just sit and do instead of being interrupted a million times with snack requests and where something is in the drawer.
Limit your child(ren)s time using media.
This will benefit them in many ways from being able to sleep better, entertain themselves without media, and allow them to learn things media cannot give (such as practicing the piano or reading a book). I understand most things can be done on the internet, but helping your child learn how to function outside the walls of the World Wide Web will help them function in society and communicate better with others.
Set up activities that do not associate media into your child(ren)s schedule as well as your own.
Go swimming, pick up a real book, color, paint, draw, go for a walk, have a picnic, go to a museum, the activities are endless! These activities will help to strengthen problem solving skills (because weird things happen in the real world), and it gives you a chance for a multitude of teachable moments. For example, let’s say you decide to go to the Children’s Museum with your kids and another child falls and gets hurt or finds they are lost? This is a great time to help the child together and to stop for a moment and talk about compassion and how we can help others around us. These hands on lessons will be a much better benefit for teaching than anything Dora, Doc McStuffins, or Barney can teach.
Take a moment to check out the mess free Finding Nemo Inspired Sensory Bin Activity to get you started!
Finally, instead of using media, whether television or an app on your phone, as a babysitter for your kids try giving them small things to do or pre-preparing activities to keep them distracted while you do the dishes.
I am guilty of this one, big time! If I want to take a shower Mickey Mouse Club House is calling my daughters name! And I am by no means saying that the occasional show while you get something done is always bad, but, just like we like to say about food, everything in proportion. If you say your kids can only have two hours of media time, whether it was the babysitter or not, two hours is it. If you bend on this rule, they will figure it out fast, those smart kids! This would be a great time to sign them up for a class or make them practice piano so you can have a few minutes, but they are not engrossed in the latest Bachelor at 5 years old.
Media is by no means a bad thing. It is actually wonderful, if it is used wisely. Don’t worry about trying to keep it away from your kids completely because they will find it, but be aware of how much they are on it as well as what they are watching and playing. What do you do to manage the media in your house? Let us know in the comments below!