“Screen Time” vs. “Unplugged Time”
The new generation currently coming of age is often referred to as the first generation of “digital natives,” or those born after the rise of digital technology. This creates a set of complex issues; we non-digital natives strive to make the best decisions for our children as we work to strike a healthy balance between “screen time,” (time spent with various forms media), and “unplugged time.”
We often approach this as an isolated and non- interactive time, such as watching TV, playing video games, or surfing the web. Aside from spending screen-time alone, be sure to integrate a healthy amount of together time on the screen as well. You can edit movies, build music libraries, research an interesting topic, and use family blogs or youtube channels as part of your joint screen-time. While engaged in media together, talk and interact. You can take this time to make connections between a movie or video game and real life. Use this time to think and not just be a passive observer. For one fantastic example of quality “screen time,” check out “Super Awesome Sylvia” http://www.youtube.com/user/SuperAwesomeSylvia
as an example of how you can engage together in DIY shows and/or projects. This can also be a tool to reach out to the broader community. Also, do not underestimate the value of educational video games. In the case of video games, the cost of failure is low (as opposed to real-life experiences) which can help encourage children to take chances, and take charge of their experiences.
When establishing “unplugged time,” be sure to designate a time when quality interactions between family members will take place. For example, although practicing for a flute lesson is technically unplugged time, it is far less conducive to real quality conversation/interactions than time spent at the dinner table. Factor a balance of both together and alone unplugged time into the equation. Alone unplugged time in particular is becoming less common in the digital native generation. Many modern-day children may grow up never knowing what it’s like to be bored and have to find things to think about on their own!
Respecting Your Child’s Digital Footprint
While setting boundaries and expectations, it is important to establish an environment of respect and consensus from day one. Your child’s digital footprint is no exception to this rule. Be open and communicative with your children regarding what you are sharing online, just as you would expect them to do for you. Also, do not share photos or private information without talking to your child about what you are doing. Always be extremely mindful of what you are putting out into the cyber world and how it may effect your child or loved ones in the future.