School will be out soon. Summer brings a challenge to parents who dread the words “I’m bored” in the absence of structured activities of a school day. The temptation is to let your kids find their own entertainment to pass the summer days through video games, tablets, or hours on their phones. This is the easiest way, but not the best way.
In fact, studies are showing too much screen time is unhealthy for a child’s mental, social, and emotional development:
- Kids in iGen are less likely to drive, work for pay, go on dates, or socialize without their parents.
- Isolation, loneliness, anxiety, and depression, lack of social skill and interaction all correlate to screen time and social media.
- A recent study by NPR reported that over 50% of Americans report feeling lonely, with the majority of them being youth. In a 2014 report, social isolation is reported a public health problem.
- FOMO—fear of mission out—is a common experience among kids who feel left out or have anxiety over what they’re missing among peers or life because of perceived messages from online activity.
- Pornography is increasing exponentially among teens and youth. 1/3 of teens report they intentionally view porn.
- 1/3 of teens have reported cyberbullying and one report cites 87% of students have witnessed cyberbullying.
- Predators solicit children for sexual abuse through online apps, social media, and gaming apps.
- Screen time produces an addiction response within the brain, causing kids to seek more and more screen time, gaming, or images, whether they really want to or not.
There’s no doubt that screen time takes away from healthy activities, relationships, and cognitive development of our kids. While it seems inconvenient to limit screen time for kids during summer vacation, the investment you make in non-screen activities is one of the best parenting decisions you can make. Here are some activities to remedy “I’m bored” without turning on a screen.
- Model behavior you want from them. Do you find yourself gravitating to your phone when you’re bored or sitting with your kids? Even small children notice this.
- Give time for creativity to develop. Be patient as instant gratification and excitement from screen activities are replaced with tangible, real life activities. The brain is in withdraw from instant activity, but once the brain receives new messages that other activities are pleasurable, it will give new signals to your child.
- Provide opportunities for non-screen activities. Outdoor activities are best for child development. Let your kids get dirty, explore, and release healthy energy.
- Engage in relational activities. Kids want relationships and interactions with those who care for them more than they want to be entertained.
- Make certain times of day screen time and turn screens off when time is done.
- Be strong. Your kids with whine and complain about being bored. It’s normal. They’ve been doing so for generations. Be the adult and do what’s best for your child. Passively letting screens rewire your child’s brain isn’t the answer.
How can you best invest in your child’s development this summer?
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https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/09/has-the-smartphone-destroyed-a-generation/534198/ Jean Twenge.