Unplugging Your Kids from Technology

If your children are a little too plugged in to technology, you might have noticed some unwanted side effects. Digital overload has been associated with a host of problems, including attention difficulties, low grades, impaired sleep, obesity and withdrawal from family life, among others.

But there are practical things you can do as a parent to help wean your child from technology overuse. Here are a few ideas:


  • Know how much is too much. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that young children shouldn’t spend more than two hours a day plugged into technology. If your child is spending more than that – and the average child does spend an average of eight hours – it’s time to set limits.
  • Declare ‘Unplug and Reconnect’ time. Specify a special tech-free time of day. Enjoy a meal without interruptions. Plan a family game night. The goal is to disconnect from technology and to find time to reconnect with your family.
  • Offer alternatives. Help your child develop a list of entertaining, technology-free games and other activities they could do by themselves or with the family. Show them that there’s a world of fun beyond the Internet.
  • Get moving. Today’s technology-addicted children are more sedentary than is good for them – which may explain why childhood obesity and Type II diabetes rates are soaring. Encourage physical play – perhaps even a family touch football game now and then.
  • Foster a balance. Establish a rule that technology use must be balanced with other activities. Tell your children that every hour spent surfing the Internet must be offset by an hour playing a non-technological activity.
  • Set a good example. Your children will often emulate your behavior. If you think they’ve become too consumed by technology, make sure that the same isn’t true of your own technology use.

Study: Americans Killing Time Online

A new survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project reveals that Americans in all age groups are going online for no reason other than to pass the time of day.

The study found that 53 percent of all young adults ages 18-29 and 58 percent of all adults in all age groups use the Internet as a diversion from daily life. According to Pew researchers, these figures are higher than in 2009, when Pew last asked how adults use the Internet, and “vastly higher” than in the mid-2000s.

PEW attributes this hike in Internet usage to several trends, including the rise of broadband connections, the increasing use of video that is enabled by these high-speed connections, and the “explosion” of social networking.

“When they have some down time, more and more [people] are finding the Internet a fun, diverting place to spend their leisure moments,” said Lee Rainie, author of the Pew report. “It’s not necessarily surprising to see that this is a favorite pastime of young adults. It is a bit surprising to see that the incidence of this use has grown in every age demographic. The Internet is not just the playground of the young.”

We can’t help but worry about this trend.

Some of the greatest artists, inventors, leaders of industry have been known to say that it is during the so-called boring times, the down time, that they get their best ideas. That sometimes, in the absence of activity, creativity flourishes.

Other worthwhile pursuits also suffer when we fill our precious spare time going online just to have something to do. We’re frittering away time that we could spend playing with our children, walking with a friend, reading a book, writing a poem, planting a garden, or simply savoring a bit of quiet “me” time in our otherwise hectic lives.

It certainly bears thinking about.



Parents Say E-Books OK, but Print Is Better

While e-books may be on the rise among Kindle-loving parents, there’s nothing like printed books for their children, according to a story appearing in the New York Times on Nov. 21.

In an article entitled, “For Their Children, Many E-Book Fans Insist on Paper,” Times reporters Matt Richtel and Julie Bosman reported that parents say they “want their children to be surrounded by print books, to experience turning physical pages as they learn about shapes, colors and animals.”

While sales of digital books to adults are proceeding at a faster-than-expected pace, sales of e-books meant for children represent less than 5 percent of total annual sales of children’s books, according to the Times article.

This is heartening news to the staff at Unplug and Reconnect.

Recently, we reported on the video of the “iPad baby,” a cute toddler who clearly confuses the pages of several magazines with her parent’s iPad. The little girl becomes bored when she can’t manipulate the pages as she would an iPad and soon pushes the magazines aside.

“How valuable can it be for a baby to learn that mom’s iPad, with its flashy moving images, is way cooler than the printed page?,” we lamented.

We’re glad to know that many parents apparently agree that there’s nothing like the printed word. Literally.