Sunday, September 4, 2011

Too Plugged In?

Are our children too plugged in? I have cut the plug on facebook for the next week. Honestly, it seems kind of ridiculous considering three years ago I barely used the thing and now I have to "detox" my way from the constant news feeds and interesting daily tidbits of friends both near and far. There is nothing wrong with facebook, per se. However, why do we feel this deep desire to post random thoughts both funny, gross, mundane or news breaking to a mass amount of people?

Again, I am not bashing facebook but thinking, how much of "it" do I want to be apart of my life and shape my future. Friendships, true friendships are forged with heart to heart talks whether over the phone, in person, doing a shared activity. Webster's definition of friendship,
Friend (n)- " one attached to another by affection or esteem" 
Friend (v) - " to act as a friend to one ( befriend)
I was reading an article by Dr Michelle Borba that really alarmed me and has really caused me to fight even more against this tidal wave of "plugged in" . Our children's generation is labeled, " Gen Net". She stated, " the average 8-18 year old is now plugged into some type of digital media  7.5 hours a day....studies show that youth online time has steadily increased by 38% in the past five years...." -more from Michelle Borba.   

She goes on to explain that due to the rapid increase in ipads, iphones, texting, facebook, skype, etc.... there is hardly any research done to see what types of long term effects these devices will have on our children. Call me old fashion, no really do, I would take it as a compliment, but I would love to have raised my children in the early 1900s. The thought of them being able to ride their bikes at night, play for hours in the creeks, explore in the vast amounts of woods ( think Tom Sawyer), eating unprocessed foods, small town all seems so romantic to me. Yes, I understand there were many hardships that went along with that time period but ride my sentimental wave with me. 

This article is just fascinating and disturbing all at the same time. She goes on to state that research is just starting to come out showing a correlation between increased screen time and decreased parental attachment in children. 
               " What’s potentially at stake for our plugged-in children lives is serious including the diminishment of the strength of our bond with our sons and daughters, the loss of strong family relationships, rituals, memories, and interactions, and stunted development of our children’s empathy and social skills. The fact is kids don’t learn crucial life and character skills such as empathy, communication, emotional intelligence, respect, sharing, friendship-making, leadership, social skills, conflict resolution, listening, compassion, tolerance–the list goes on but I think you get my drift–by facing those screens or having earphones jammed in. While a digital world may enhance our children’s cognitive growth, it does little to affect their moral, social and emotional development. And do beware: a parent-child relationship can not be strengthened when a child or parent is plugged in or attached to a digital device."
I encourage you to read the entire article. If you click on the blue highlighted areas it will bring you to an even more extensive article factoring in research and other key factors that are playing into our children's "plugged in" worlds. So what can we do to combat this, to keep our children's hearts young and full of empathy and understanding, to share and transition to them the skills and character that we have learned through the years???
Here are a few ideas to get them out in nature, away from the screen, into the toy closet and with you:
* camping trips- even a short 2 day trip with a fire, the stars and exploring will fulfill such a void
* reading
* interactive play- get down on their level and play with them
* treasure hunts- hid something in the neighborhood and make a map with clues trying to locate the item ( put on your pirates hat)
* play GAMES! games that do not require BATTERIES!
* Listen to books on cd on a player that is audible to the whole family
* read joke books
* have a family cooking night where the kids pick what the meal will be and everyone helps to prepare it ( life skills 101)
* build forts, out of blankets, cushions, tree branches, whatever you have on hand. Eat lunch in there and pretend you are on an island. 
            ** side note, I remember VIVIDLY when I was younger getting off the school bus in kindergarten and stowing away to the huge snow forts my Dad would help us create in the winter. I would carefully walk along the "cliff edges" until I was safe in my fort. I could hear the cars passing but they couldn't see me :) I loved the adventure I felt hiding in there, on my own, independent. I also remembering, like it was yesterday, sitting in a tent in the backyard that my parents had set up and reading and playing in there, all alone....again, feeling that I was on this grand adventure. These are the memories I want for my children **

* If you are going to play a video game, play it together. I do not have a WII but that is one aspect of that I was pretty impressed about - the ability to bowl, play baseball, etc together.
* Make family dinners a time to laugh, enjoy and recap the day. I know this is something we really have a hard time with. Its not quite the relaxing and enjoyable as I would like it, mainly due to the constant throwing of food on the ground by my one year old or helping cut food for the younger ones. Yet, I am working on this!

Finally, use common sense. Common sense would tell you 7.5 hours of "plugged in" time is way too much and not practical. How can we lower this and extend our children to a tactical world void of Internet pictures and Internet reactions where a superficial life style is so easily achieved. Am I anti Internet, definitely not. I blog, don't I? :) What I am fighting against, vigilantly, is the amount of time I allow my children in front of these devices. What are you waiting for, go out and explore, read, bake, cook, laugh, and look into their eyes! Here is some research to leave you with, according to Dr Borba,
"Fifty years of solid child development research confirms that the most powerful source of psychological impact on children are the strength of their relationship with their parents." 


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