Unplugged Play Is Essential for a Child’s Healthy Development
Did you know that the average American child spends around 8 hours a day in front of screens? That’s 56 hours…more hours than a full-time job! Where’s the unplugged play time?
While, of course, technology has a lot of great benefits, the fact that kids are spending so much time in front of a screen isn’t good. Yes, we want our children to feel comfortable using technology since it is an essential skill. But they are learning those skills at school!
I grew up in 70s and 80s. We had television, and Atari was just hitting the markets. I sure didn’t have one though! Mobile technology wasn’t even a thing! Well, if it was, the government was keeping it to themselves. I remember being so excited in high school when we got to have computer class where we got to “play” on an Apple computer. There was some mystery game we played. You had to give the computer commands like, “Go kitchen. Go drawer. Get knife.” Big time tech there!
Today, things have changed. Unplugged play is like something from the “old days.” My sisters and I played with Lincoln Logs and Fisher Price people. We’d go outside to ride bikes, play freeze tag and “lost kids.” Don’t ask! We had vivid imaginations. Playing is so important for a child’s mental well-being, physical well-being, psychological well-being and emotional well-being.
Did you know that our minds don’t fully develop until we are 25! Our impulse control is basically out of control until we turn 25. Think of all of the decisions you made before you were 25! If you’re like I am, you probably made some pretty stupid ones. That’s one of the reasons car insurance goes down after you turn 25. I’m waiting for that day for my kids!
So, you really can’t expect your child to control their urge to pick up an iPad or video game when they’re bored. They get instant gratification from it, and sadly, we’re probably somewhat responsible for that. How many times have you handed your little one your phone, and put on “Baby Shark” so you can have a moment of peace?
Excessive device use is risky and harmful
Excessive screen time and not enough unplugged time is associated with plenty of problems, including:
- Problems Sleeping
- Weight Gain
- Impaired Social Skills
- Poor Academic Performance
- Violent Tendencies
Content matters as much as time
While it’s important for parents to set time limits on screen time, monitoring the quality of the content kids are engaging with during that time is just as important if not, more.
Educational apps aren’t always what they say they are. Do some research and ask other parents if you’re not sure about an app your kids want to use.
What can you do?
As a parent, it can be hard to find balance between technology and unplugged play. We’re busier now than ever. It’s a lot easier to give your child an iPad than it is to go on a family bike ride. It’s not like it used to be when our parents could just send us outside to play. We have to actually watch our kids if they want to go outside. Plus, playing with actual toys can make a mess…oh the horror!
You’ve got to set limits, and how you set those limits is important. Here are some tips:
Practice what you preach
Ouch! This hits close to home, doesn’t it? If you’re telling your kids to put their phones away at the dinner table, do the same. If you take the limits seriously, they will too.
Kids watch us closer than we think. Grab a book and read when you tell your child to do the same. Don’t just jump on the computer. Get some exercise with them. We all could do with some unplugged play.
Don’t let the kids take their phones or tech with them to bed
Screens emit a special type of ‘blue light’ that messes with melatonin – the hormone that helps us sleep. Even if you put your phone or your child’s phone on night mode with a filtered light, you have no idea what they’re doing on those phones after you go to bed. You want to keep your kids safe, and taking their phones away at night is a start.
Some easy ways to set limits on screen time
There is a lot of value in using technology to manage technology. I’m sure you have found that when you tell your kids that it’s almost time or time to put their tech away, it creates arguments that you just don’t want to have. Use software to your advantage to automatically shut devices off or control the apps your kids use. You can even see the texts your kids are sending and to whom they’re sending them!
No. It isn’t spying! You are the mom or dad. You are in charge of your child’s safety. Like I said before, our brains don’t work correctly until we’re 25! Okay, they work, but they don’t make very good decisions. Just watch the news. There are BAD people out there. Keeping your kids safe is not spying on them.
Tools you can use
You can find a lot of apps in the iPS App Store or the Google Play Store. The best parental control apps change every year because technology is always changing. Don’t skimp. Most of these apps are ones you pay for yearly, but they’re worth it. These are the apps recommended by Digital Trends, and you can go to the link above to find out more about each app.
- Eset Parental Control
- Web Watcher
- Norton Family Premier
Technology isn’t your enemy, and it’s not all bad for your kids. But, you have to have limits. Make sure you and your child get unplugged play time. It’s all about balance, just like everything is in our lives.
What tips do you have for helping to manage screen time and get some unplugged play?