A recent Pew study showed that kids between the ages of 8-10 use screens 7.5 hours a day. Ages 11-14? 11.5 hours a day. Whoa.Ok, now that I’ve gotten your full attention… let’s acknowledge what we already know—unless, of course, you’ve been intentionally burying your head in the sand, ignoring the copious scientific data out there and the anecdotal evidence from family and friends—and consider the ramifications…
There is a direct connection between kids’ reliance on technology and:
- Sleep Disorders
- Depression and Suicide
- Inability to Concentrate/ Focus
- A Lack of Empathy (because they’re not connecting face-to-face)
- Access to Inappropriate Violence & Porn, resulting in a more violent sexual culture
Gulp. Talk about sobering information. But there’s no need to lose hope. We are not helpless at all in the fight against screentime overload. According to experts William Stixrud, Ph.D., (clinical neuropsychologist) and Ned Johnson, (teen coach) authors of The Self-Driven Child,
“Technology is a beast that when tamed, can bring joy and possibility into your child’s life. But you must teach them to stay in charge.”
And the “aha” moment for all parents? There’s a simple secret weapon in this battle to stay in charge that is too often overlooked and not taken to full advantage.
Get back to NATURE regularly!Yep, it’s that simple to slay the big bad tech dragon. Getting outside and making it a part of a family’s daily and weekly routine helps parents and kids get ahead of tech reliance. By experiencing more nature, you’ll be cultivating the character strength of wonder in your whole family resulting in a more balanced, low-tech lifestyle. Amazingly, studies even show that kids do better psychologically & emotionally when they spend time just looking at nature posters.
The Japanese culture puts a high premium on the importance of getting back to nature. They call it shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing” which seems an appropriate name considering the positive effects of nature appreciation. According to Stixrud & Johnson,
“Walking in nature “cleans” the prefrontal cortex of its clutter, calming us, centering us and allowing us to perform better on tasks or tests that demand working memory.”One study showed that after just five days in tech-free summer camps, kids demonstrated improvement in empathy. Win! Let’s tackle the beast together by striving for a more low-tech lifestyle and heading for the great outdoors.
Families of Character’s Tips for Tapping into the Secret Weapon in Your Own Backyard:
1. Set a small, actionable (and achievable daily/weekly goal) to appreciate nature. Write it down and post it for all to see. But don’t stretch yourself beyond your abilities too soon, say, committing to 4 hours of hiking each day. Not gonna happen! A more appropriate first step might be just getting some outdoor time with your kids at least 3 days a week. Then, build on that. Make small strides over time and experience more lasting change.
2. You don’t need to climb mountains. City parks and the backyard work just as well. The real problem is that we don’t appreciate the “patches of nature” within reach. If we did, we’d be so much better off. So, seize the nature that is accessible whenever possible. Some fun ideas to make your backyard even more inviting:
- Set up a slackline for the kids to practice balancing on. Check out this tutorial from RunWildMyChild.com.
- Create an outdoor craft table so kids can do typical indoor projects, coloring, drawing, etc. while taking in fresh air and sunlight.
- Plant a garden or seed some plants in pots to make them more invested in the wonders of nature.
- Assemble a makeshift tent for kids to enjoy “camping.”
Intentional parents don’t get bossed around by the technology beast. They recognize they get to call the shots and that their secret weapon awaits on the other side of the door. Open up your family’s future to more amazing potential today and breath in all that fresh success!
Looking for even more practical tips to get your kids off screens and cultivating character strengths like respect, self-control, and gratitude? Check out our Adventure into Character kit. We feel so strongly about its effectiveness for creating good healthy habits...building your family’s amazing character is just a click away!
If you have an issue you’d like our help with, drop us a line at Hello@FamiliesofCharacter.com. If you’re experiencing a problem, chances are thousands of other families are in the same boat. We’re ALL in this parenting boat together!
Remember to tap into our Thrive Community on Facebook. It’s free and our team’s very own clinical counselor offers helpful tips and encouragement to parents who are adventuring together.