I should probably admit right off the bat that I spend an insane amount of time feeling guilty about my parenting choices. Though my kids and I frequent the library and read nightly, I wonder if I'm doing enough to open their minds. I try to offer them healthy choices at every meal but sometimes we end up in the drive-through and I give myself some mental lashings for that, too. So naturally, when I surrender my iPhone so my kids can play Angry Birds or watch Disney Jr. while I'm navigating the aisles of the grocery store (looking for healthy foods that they'll actually eat, of course), I'm convinced I'm going to ruin my children by way of an app. And I know I'm not alone in this.
As much as I try to keep my kids off the iPhone, computer and tablet, or away from the television, the bottom line is that technology is increasingly a huge part of kids' lives. They have iPads in their classrooms and Macs in the computer labs. A new government report says that 75 percent of kids from age 12 to 15 spend more than two hours a day in front of a computer or TV screen, and I think that number is probably a lot more than two hours.
But screen time may not be so bad after all. In an interview with NBC News, Dr. Dimitri Christakis, George Adkins Professor at the University of Washington and director of the university’s Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development as well as coauthor of the 2013 American Academy of Pediatrics media guidelines, says that parents shouldn't be too concerned about the government report because the report does not differentiate how screen time is used.
He notes that there is a big difference between your child reading a book on a Kindle or researching the Encyclopedia Britannica online versus playing Grand Theft Auto. Instead of focusing on time spent on the tablet or computer, Dr. Christakis says parents should focus on the quality of that screen time.
As long as there is a balance between the time we allow our children to have their screen time (for educational purposes and just for fun), we're not doing them any disservice. Technology is simply the next generation's way of getting information and interacting with one another.
Make a point to be present as a family during dinner, game night or other family activities (as in, tuck those phones away) and then you can let yourself off the hook when Junior plays Angry Birds while you take a conference call. Believe me, I'm going to do the same thing.
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