Technology has become an enormous part of our daily lives. Whether it is using Facebook to stay up-to-date and connected with friends, using smartphones to take notes on the run, viewing the web from a smart TV, or even buying groceries through products such as Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa, it is hard to deny the impact technology has had on our standard of living.
There are certainly advantages for children who use technology – countless literacy and reading apps are highly beneficial in educating children. But for all the good there are also drawbacks that parents need to be aware of, that affect both parents and children.
Why your family needs to switch off from technology
As a parent, it is important to take a break from technology to become more engaged with your family and your son. Technology such as smartphones has been shown to interfere with sleep patterns, and cause headaches and eye strain. There is also a blurring of lines between work and personal life due to being permanently ‘on’ and connected to our devices – being alerted by push notifications while we are at home means we find it increasingly hard to switch off. Having difficulty switching off can lead to irritability, tension, high blood pressure, increased heart rate, and a tendency to over indulge in sweet and fatty foods.
For children, the negative impacts of over-exposure to technology can be far greater. Research indicates that children are facing increased risk of obesity, lowered attention spans, lack of vitamin D, lack of quality sleep patterns, anti-social behaviour, and negative impacts on mental and emotional wellbeing.
Maximising the positive impacts of technology
Technology is a double-edged sword – the benefits are great, but the drawbacks are equally substantial. Finding a balance is crucial. Here are our top tips for helping your family make the most of the positive impacts of technology.
Set a daily limit for your son’s technology use
This is an easy step that all parents can take to limit the negative impacts on children. Just keep in mind that your son will likely need access to a laptop for homework and this needs to be a consideration when setting a time limit.
Schedule time for outdoor play
No matter how old your son is, outdoor activity is vital for his wellbeing. Time in nature is also important for parents, as most of us spend eight hours sitting at a desk. Sunlight is a natural mood enhancer and time spent outodoors as a family will have a huge impact on both you and your son.
Use technology purposefully
If your son is watching TV, encourage him to watch a documentary or show that relates to a key area of interest for him. This will help ensure that his time is spent productively, even if he isn’t fully aware of it in that moment.
Tips for taking a break from technology
Just as important as using technology in a beneficial way, taking a break from it is also vital for wellbeing. Here are some tips for parents on switching off from technology.
Develop an unwinding ritual for day’s end
Screen time should cease at least an hour before bed to allow your body time to wind down and for your brain to switch off. You can help this process by setting a daily routine such as no TV after 9:00pm and spending 30 minutes reading a book. After a while your body will associate this routine with sleep leading to a much better night and morning.
Turn off push notifications
This applies to both parents and children, and is a crucial part of separating work/school/social life from home time.
Encourage the pursuit of a hobby
Relevant again for both parents and children, hobbies keep us positively distracted and allow our brains to focus on something other than the device in our hand or lap. Discuss your son’s interests with him and make suggestions for how he can pursue this without the use of technology. A perfect example is sketching or painting but it could really be anything he enjoys doing.
Get rid of it
While this may seem drastic, the easiest way to switch off from technology is to get rid of it. A TV is a perfect example of technology that most of us could do without, but you could extend this to tablets and gaming devices.
Switching off from technology is much easier than you may think, the problem is that we all view it as an integral part of our lives. While there are definitely benefits from technology, it is far from integral. Try some of the above tips for one week and notice the difference.