Screen Zombies & Parenting
“This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs.” This 1987 commercial showed a frying pan with an egg sizzling. The 1997 Heroin version even more dramatic.
So, why aren’t we all talking more widely about the implications of smart phones on our brain? And child development? Well, they are so damn useful — it’s hard to imagine a world without them. Not to mention that dopamine kick each time we use it. But at family gatherings, I’m depressed when I don’t see children playing and using their imagination — instead nothing but eyes glued to glowing screens.
Over the holidays, my wife and I started discussing how we could break this cycle.
Step 1: Lead by Example & Break Habits
- Batch emails/messages/social media/news consumption in blocks, rather than doing them sporadically.
- Use a desktop rather than your phone, get what needs to be done and don’t check your phone.
- Monitor your phone usage, get Moments / QualityTime — nothing like getting a kick in the pants when you see that 20% of your waking life is on your phone.
- Optimize your phone notifications, spend an hour and turn off everything you possibly can. If someone really needs to get a hold of you, let them call you.
- If you’re still having trouble, set daily limits, reduce your data plan, change your phone to grayscale (b&w assessabilty setting), and delete unnecessary apps.
- Bored while commuting or in between activities? Keep books handy, draw, meditate, observe and be present.
Step 2: Get Outside & Live!
In reading up on parenting differences abroad, Swedish parents get their kids outdoors for 2+ hours a day of unstructured play, in Japan outdoor recess every 50 minutes, meanwhile in the US children on average get 7 minutes!
- Set daily goal of outside and unstructured playtime.
- Get rid of your TV.
- Create “no screens” rule at the table.
- Show your children that screens are tools, not entertainment.
- Nurture your children’s imagination through play and storytime.
- Get a hobby and teach your children.
Parenting is about “us”, as the parents, and our children are a reflection of that. Changing our behavior is the only way to make the positive changes that you may want.
But, hey what do I know? We’re still experimenting — would love to hear tips!