Motherhood is just not what it used to be, you know? Even as we sat at the Easter brunch table the subject of raising kids in modern society came up in discussion. My step dad told us how on long car trips kids just play or nap in the backseat with no restraints on them at all. I don’t know about you, but as a mom I absolutely cannot fathom the thought of not strapping my kids into a car seat for a car trip. I actually looked it up and it wasn’t until 1985 that child passenger safety laws were implemented in the United States. The latch system that we use in our cars today was established in 2003, I was in high school. To my surprise the car seat is a fairly new technology for modern parents and as much of a pain as they are I am grateful for the safety and security they offer. Advancements in our society saves lives in one way yet destroys lives in other ways.
Technology is definitely one parenting domain that has me scratching my head. I frequently take myself back in time and compare my childhood to my children’s childhood the same way our parents talk about their childhood versus ours. It’s bonkers to think that nowadays the typical age for a child to get their first smartphone is 10 years old with a social media account. I know kids as young as 7 years old who have a smartphone. It’s just how the world runs now. We rely heavily on the technology available to us and realistically, we always have. It just looks different today than it did in the early 90’s when I was a kid.
Dopamine and Instant Gratification
Our society is normalizing filters. We crave likes, comments, and text messages. The craving is coming with a cost of addiction traits. Social media and cell phone interaction release dopamine, the same chemical that is released in the brain when a person smokes, drinks alcohol, or gambles, causing instant gratification. Smoking, alcohol, and gambling all come with age restriction and for good reason. While there are no age restrictions with social media and cell phones.
Teaching our next generation and beyond turning to a device to cope with stress instead of forming deep relationships and human connection. Causing instant gratification and temporary relief. You as the mom can bring this topic to the table.
Balance and Awareness
Alcohol is not bad, too much is bad.
Gambling is fun, too much is bad.
Social media is a good form of networking, too much is bad.
Self-Awareness is no self-judgement.
I believe in the value of technology. It is, of course, a significant tool that future generations will undoubtedly rely on their entire life. Technology touches everything we do and for a moment let’s just admire technology. The way we communicate, travel, produce goods and offer services have all benefited from technological advancements. It’s truly a wonder.
The way I see it, I can embrace technology in my children’s development and be a digital role model, or I can resist it, which seems so much more difficult. I mean kindergartners are assigned iPads these days. There is no avoiding it. By modeling behaviors and habits that I want my children to adopt I can teach them healthy ways to integrate technology into their lives. So, in my research about this topic I found three ways families can take to integrate technology into their lives in a healthy way. These are not the only things you can do, but I think these were simple ways to be more intentional with digital media. The temptation needs to be limited.
1. No phones or screen time during meals and snacks
I unfortunately am guilty of letting my kiddos eat in front of the TV. Research proves that eating with distractions leads to unhealthy eating patterns such as binge eating or under-consumption. Under-consumption occurs especially for the little cubs that are preschool ages. TV and screens are super stimulating for their young minds so they get wrapped up in the show and the picture and almost become hypnotized, forgetting they are hungry and need to eat. WE all know how this story ends. 15 minutes after the TV show or movie is over they realize they are hungry and want more food, even though their dinner sat in front of them for 90 minutes and they didn’t take a single bite. Don’t forget that no phones at meals means that you, the parent, don’t get to use a screen during meals too. This one can be tougher than it sounds. The dings and beeps of the phone are so tempting. 99% of the time though the alert from your phone can wait 20 minutes while you eat a meal with your family. Technology at mealtime is going to be a lifelong temptation. It seems like a no brainer to me to take the time now to help your children adopt a healthy habit of no technology and screens while they eat. Bad habits are hard to break, which is why we shouldn’t wait to establish good ones.
2. Spend screen time together.
As grownups we can easily see the benefit of building Legos, or playing Uno with our kids. We can tangibly see the benefit it gives our children. Unfortunately, and I am just as guilty as the next, we use screens as babysitters for our kids. I don’t think there is anything wrong with using screens as a babysitter, but I think it can be a problem when it’s only used as a babysitter. Screens should not only be used purely as a babysitter. The kids living in today's world need more than that from their parents. They can benefit from a concept known as “joint media engagement” (e.g. you’re on the computer checking emails while your kids play games on their tablet). It’s what the experts are calling the way kids and grown-ups engage in media together. Joint media engagement is not complicated even though it sounds cumbersome. It can happen anywhere, anytime parents and their children use media together. It includes viewing, searching, reading, creating, learning and everything in between. Think outside of the box with me for a minute. Let’s say your kiddo likes to ride his bicycle. Together you can use a mapping app on your smartphone to track the distance and speed of your bike ride. Maybe you sit down with your child and have them teach you how to play their favorite game. Then you can watch them play and take a turn of your own. Even simpler you could research something together online such as a new recipe to cook together. My kids and I like to search for “How it’s Made” videos online. Our favorite ones are how to make candy canes and crayons. Sounds legit. I’m going to try it. Stay tuned.
3. Set time limits for media use.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) last updated their recommendations on screen time in 2016 in order to acknowledge the resounding presence of media in children’s lives. The main takeaway from their recommendations is the need to establish healthy media use habits early on. They even have this cool tool where you can create a Family Media Use Plan. It has some really good ideas and you can print the plan off and display it to remind everyone.
For children younger than 18 months, use of screen media other than video-chatting should be discouraged.
Parents of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programming/apps and use them together with children, because this is how toddlers learn best. Letting children use media by themselves should be avoided.
For children older than 2 years, media limits are very appropriate. Limit screen use to no more than 1 hour or less per day of high-quality programming. Co-view or co-play with your children, and find other activities to do together that are healthy for the body and mind (e.g., reading, teaching, talking, and playing together).
That last one about setting time limits on media use makes me cringe because I know it will be hard for me to be a good role model. I use digital media for my businesses, being a brand partner with mom friendly clothes; I connect with clients on my phone for coaching sessions, scheduling needs, and I network on social media.. Needless to say, my media use doesn’t really have a time limit at the moment, because whenever I can catch a free chunk of time, I hop onto my computer or my cell phone and get some work done. I think I can be more intentional with my media usage. I think we probably all can. Spending time on your phone or iPad is not a reason to feel guilty or ashamed though. It’s just something we need to be more self aware of and when it’s possible we should use it with greater intention. If we can be more self aware of our habits, then we are one step closer to leading a more balanced life because we can see ourselves with greater clarity as we become more mindful.
About the Author
Kelly Hater, owner of Mama Bear Domain, has over 15 years of coaching experience along with a B.S. in Health Promotion specialized in Exercise Science.
She specializes in helping clients overcome mom burnout, providing a clear, decisive plan that leads her clients on a path of success. Her clients no longer let mom guilt steal their identity and goals. Moms deserve to be happy and live a fulfilling life. She personally has overcome overwhelming struggles herself. Get the accountability needed to take action. As a mom of two she gets it. Get your E-Book Mom, Open Your Eyes to Self-Awareness.
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