Creating Family Memories Outside of Screen Time
By Tawny Redford
The typical American family eating dinner in front of the television has become an embarrassingly familiar version of ‘family time’ in our culture. Instead of our family dialogue centered on each other, our attention has pivoted towards our own media obsessions. I will admit, my husband and I have been caught texting during dinner, or multi-tasking on the computer in between bites. I have even heard those dreaded words from my kids, “Mom, can’t you put your phone down for one minute?” Wow! What a wake-up call! And I am the one who is supposed teach them the fundamentals of building healthy relationships while managing their ‘virtual comfort zones?’
Since my children were babies I have been neurotic about having them continually stimulated. I swore I was never going to be ‘that mother’ who uses her television as a babysitter; the thought of parents doing that still makes me cringe. I used to do flash cards with my son while he was soaking in the bath, and play Mozart every night while my daughter slept, even against my mother’s counsel that, “There is no point in doing such things so early in their development.”
I disagreed with her unsolicited advice, and continued taking every opportunity to create an intellectually engaging environment for each of my children. “It is imperative that parents take the time and invest their resources in their children by providing rich, edifying experiences for them.” (Dobson, 2008) I knew that my children’s neurons were firing left and right as I read to them and continually talked to them about what I was doing all day long. All of those ‘little things’ added up to giving them a head start in their educational development. Since then, they have grown into active and curious learners.
It seemed I had equipped my children with an active brain but our biggest resistance in fitting in family activities has been technology. Like many children my son’s age, “Minecraft” is his latest vice. Despite the game’s somewhat educational nature, it is still a technological tool that pulls him in; away from connecting with our family. I realize that it isn’t realistic or beneficial to rob him of of ‘play-time’ that serves his intellectual growth. In fact, when children play “they are actually developing crucial life skills and preparing their brains for the challenges of adulthood.” (Pappers, 2011) However the ‘Ebb and Flo’ of managing my kids’ school work, play, and engaging in family relationships is a skill I am refining. My daughter, far from a screen time addict, is a little easier to keep engaged in family activities. She will work tirelessly on puzzles, building, and crafts; activities involving spatial reasoning. (I guess I can thank Mozart for that!)
Rather than hand our children our phones or iPads to get a moment of peace, even if they are quarrelling or whining, let us remember that they will be grown before we can blink our eyes. It is vital that we take the opportunity to be in the moment with them; as we would out to lunch with our dearest friend. We would never hand our chattering friends our laptops and say, “find a game to play and pipe down.” Don’t worry though! You aren’t alone and the damage is not irreversible, if you haven’t already adapted. As parents we are just trying to keep our heads ‘above water’ and it feels nearly impossible to engage with our children when we are stressed or tired. Build new habits with your children by incorporating these helpful tips:
- ‘Kill two birds with one stone’ and use occasional movies or television programs as a chance to interact with your children by making some of the issues portrayed in the program object lessons for Life. (Ex: If a married couple is shown kissing, then take the opportunity to talk about how intimacy is a healthy part of marriage).
- Be aware of both you and your child’s dependency on screen time entertainment because your example is powerful! If they see you constantly glued to your phone, laptop, or iPad then they will inevitably mimic those habits.
- Overuse of screen time will create a child, and later an adult, who lacks communication skills, self-worth, and the ability to interpret social cues. Much of a child’s development of self-worth comes from how he or she relates to others. “Children are growing up using media to connect with others rather than being in the real world and it affects the kind of social interaction the children learn.” (Duran, 2011)
Making family time memorable and fun is the biggest investment parents can make in their children and will help them grow to be emotionally-stable, well-rounded individuals who are able to carry that on to their families and communities in the future.
Our books have many great conversation starters, and they can help you improve communication between you and your children. Check them out! 30 Days of Sex Talks; How to Talk to Your Kids About Pornography, which is also available in Spanish; and 30 Days to a Stronger Child.
Tawny Redford is a wife and mother of two children. She has a B.A. from Sacramento State University and is passionate about issues involving childhood development. She chooses to use her opinionative nature to empower others instead of drive her husband crazy.
Dobson, J. (2008, December 4). Early Stimulation Promotes Children’s Learning Ability. Retrieved November 18, 2014, from www.thechristianindex.org
Duran, S. (2011, April 4). Children Lack Social Skills Because of Time Spent in Front of TV, Computer. Retrieved November 18, 2014, from www.mrt.comPappers, S. (2011, August 12). Why Play Matters. Retrieved November 18, 2014, from www.livescience.com
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