Media and digital devices represent an unavoidable part of our world today. Dr. Carrie Chiasson at the Portsmouth Neuropsychology Center recently gave a talk at Families First of Portsmouth on the impact of technology on kids and families, including recent trends, suggested guidelines for limiting screen time, and the importance of role-modeling healthy tech use for parents. Dr. Chiasson noted that “Making a technology plan for your family can be a crucial way to get the positive aspects of technology while minimizing some of the risks and negatives. However, expect to revisit this conversation and the guidelines over and over again. As your child grows, so will their involvement with technology. Thus, your definition of what is healthy with regard to technology will likely have to change over time as well.”
“Screen time” is a recent term which refers to the amount of time children and adolescents, spend interacting with video games, TV’s, digital pads, phones, and computers. An interesting study is currently being conducted to determine if this screen time has a negative impact on the developing brains of children. Some early results and the details of this study can be found here from an episode of CBS’s 60 Minutes (12/18). Additionally, a study by Dr. Dimitri Christakis revealed that toddlers using apps on an ipad are not generalizing what they learn from the ipad to the real world. For example, if a child plays with virtual Legos on an ipad and then are shown Legos in real life they don’t know what to do with them.
In general, parents today did not grow up with the technology that we have access to currently. It is challenging to compare limiting TV time back then to limiting technology use today, especially as many youth utilize computers to complete homework. Consider using the following tips when talking with your children about time spent using tech devices include 1) aim for balance, 2) be a role model, and 3) make tech a family affair. The article How To Limit Kid’s Tech Use, by Melaine Pinola, offers age appropriate guidelines for kids under 2 up through teenagers. Moreover, social psychologist Adam Alter likens the balancing of tech use to aiming for a healthy diet. “Older kids understand the concept of balance intuitively—they know that it’s important to eat healthy foods alongside candy and dessert, and the same is true of the ‘empty calories’ that come from spending too much time passively gazing at screens.”
One thing for sure is media and technology will continue to be a large part of our daily lives. The following Family Media Plan tool is a helpful way to create a plan for your family to use media in a thoughtful and appropriate manner that reflects your family values and parenting style.