I’m as likely to be “jazzed” by the newest electronic gizmo as the next person, particularly as technology is central to my work. As an RDI Consultant, I hold “sessions” with many families by phone and webcam when I can’t be with them in person. It works, and it means that I can help families that don’t live around the corner. For that I am eternally grateful.
Modern Screen Time
Screen time encompasses all of the time your child spends in front of a TV, a computer, or a hand held device of any kind. It goes without saying that all kids are at risk of being captivated by these devices, particularly as technology evolves. As I left Pearson International to fly to Houston, I listened to the flight attendant read what seemed like an endless list of electronic devices, which would need to be turned off prior to leaving the tarmac. It was quite a wake-up call – particularly as I was planning on writing this article about screen time during the flight!
So what was screen time like when I was a kid? (I give you full permission to have a chuckle at my expense.)
I had Captain Kangaroo and Mr. Dress-up to keep me company (ouch!). My screen time pals were pretty laid back, and in their defense, imagination was central to their “shtick.” Fortunately, Barney the Dinosaur was off the radar for my kids before he made his way into their “DSs!” Had he not become extinct I’d be in a padded room today. It is true that each generation of today’s youth is presented with more pervasive electronic temptation, and each new evolution more seductive than the previous.
Let’s take a step back and reconnect
Over the weekend, my family observed Earth Hour by dutifully turning off all computers and other electronic gadgets. We sat by candlelight, enjoying the peace and quiet, knowing that for one hour – one hour – we’d be a family that had no choice but to be together without distraction. To my delight, my kids read ghost stories, and we had a truly memorable time, with only our imaginations and candlelight to entertain us.
As a busy working Mom, it is very easy to get occupied with one thing or another, knowing my kids are safe at home (too often on Facebook!). Like most Moms, I have an endless list of “to-dos” that begins only when I get home from my office, and often resumes after my Mom-duties are put to bed. I too, need to be aware of how much screen time my kids are getting.
For kids on the spectrum, screen time is even more tantalizing.
This means that for busy, often exasperated parents, it is even easier to succumb. The predictability of television, video games and all other electronic devices gives kids with neuro-developmental challenges a false sense of control and competence. But when the off button is hit, the unpredictable, dynamic world again becomes a reality.
Let’s all get real. Be aware of how much time your kids are spending immersed in the world of electronics, and I will too. I challenge you to find one hour each week, to spend time as a family without the distraction of these mind-numbing influences; I’ll do the same. My Earth Hour experience reminded me that the power of imagination and ingenuity live on. They just need to be given a chance!
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