Modern childhood is being born with an iPad in hand. Gone are the days of paying for internet by the minute or checking out a book at the library. Children and families have become accustomed to having instantaneous access to all information. The Digital Age has become a blessing and also a horrible master. So how do families survive and flourish without being constantly glued to their electronic devices—is it possible to find a healthy balance for everyone in the family?
Digital Wellness Defined
The urgency for families to strive for digital wellness wasn’t a concern before the world of iPhones because the problem simply didn’t exist. Technology has revolutionized the way people function and in turn has drastically changed the family dynamic. Recipes are sought after on Pinterest pages and social media consumes hours of our time. Where do the limitations need to begin?
Expert Dr. Sylvia Hart Frejd, the Executive Director of the Center for Digital Wellness at Liberty University and the bestselling author of The Digital Invasion, believes in the importance of creating boundaries.
“Digital wellness should start with the goal to create digital free spaces in your home where conversation is encouraged and can flow freely. Places like the dining room, the car, the kitchen and when you are out at restaurants are all great spaces [to consider],” Frejd said.
Taking a break from technology forces individuals to interact and have normal face-to-face conversation.
Raising Young Children in Tech-Savvy Homes
Today’s children have constant access to technology. Unlike their parents who grew up “waiting their turn” on the computer or landline phone, children are able to play on various smart devices 24-7. So how can parents prevent their kids from being screen addicts?
Frejd suggests boundaries from the earliest of ages; if a child is raised with restrictions, having time away from their phones will seem normal as they grow older.
“For children more than two years of age, there should be no more than 2 hours of screen time a day,” Frejd said. “Limiting your child’s screen time will have benefits and will encourage your child to think, meditate and engage in imaginative play.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under the age of two should have zero screen time. The logic behind this reasoning is that during the child’s first two years, their brain is growing at its fastest rate.
Don’t Forget About the Middle Child
As a child gets older, limiting technology can become an increasing struggle. The average amount of time that a middle age child stares at a screen is close to eight hours a day according to Business Insider. To promote digital wellness for the pre-teen, there is one simple guideline that families can put into place: restrict social media use.
“Children under the age of 13 lack the maturity needed to navigate these various sites and being able to properly handle the content and bullying that can happen,” Frejd believes. “As great as social media is, our kids are developing and basing their identities and [ideas of ] self-worth on the number of followers, likes and comments they receive on social media sites.”
Having an age cap prevents a child from even having the opportunity to obsess over the happenings of the digital world. Without social media, kids can be more present with their families and participate more frequently in outdoor activities and mentally stimulating games.
Promoting digital wellness for a teenager may seem like another stressful fight but in recent case studies and conversations, the opposite has been proven true. Teenagers crave attention, specifically from those who matter the most in their lives, so parents play a huge role in promoting digital wellness as a family.
Dr. Frejd suggests starting a conversation regarding how technology impacts the family dynamic and asking their teenager what they think of it.
Also keep in mind Frejd’s advice: “More is caught than taught when it comes to practicing digital wellness.”
Teens pick up the most from observing their parents’ habits, so to influence them effectively it’s crucial for parents to practice digital wellness themselves.
Change for the Better
Actively practicing digital wellness is a crucial matter for the modern family. Families deserve the chance to bond, love, interact and play without constantly competing with screens for attention.
Not only will practicing digital wellness help families thrive emotionally and mentally, it was also increase a families’ physical well being. Being attentive to those next to you is hard when the phone is something we give countless attention to every hour of every day. Dr. Fejd notes that conversation is the turntable for the brain—it’s how the mind grows one’s sense of self-awareness, empathy and emotional connections with others. So strive for a year of authentic, screen-free family experiences. Your health and family are worth it.
Eat This, Not That: Food Comparisons
Minute Maid Apple Juice 8oz.
Whole Milk 8oz.
Goldfish 1 cup or 55 pieces
Graham Crackers 2 sheets
Cheez Its 1 cup
Apples 1 Golden Delicious
Vitamins: A-1%, C-8%
Oranges 1 Orange>
Vitamins: A-4%, C-85%
Bananas 1 Chiquita
Vitamins: A-2%, C-15%
By Ashley Culpepper