How much time do your children spend in front of a screen? According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, American children and teens spend an average of seven and a half hours a day watching TV, playing video games or surfing the Internet. This is a scary enough statistic considering it doesn’t even include texting or cell phone time. Writer Amy Novotney describes ways to survive the media onslaught in her article written for the American Psychological Association Monitor. The research by psychologists focuses on ways to find balance between online and offline worlds. Researchers report sizable drawbacks to the digital age, including increased distraction, trouble focusing in the classroom, and stunted interpersonal skill development. The Kaiser study found that heavy media users (16 hours a day) had lower grades, reported being bored or sad, got into trouble and were unhappy at school. Many of the teens and young adults that I have worked with lack emotional and social maturity. Unfortunately they interact more through written words and less through spoken words. They are not afforded the invaluable nonverbal cues and nuances that contribute more to the message than the words. Which do you think is more important, what you say or how you say it? The latter is what most people rely on to determine the meaning of the communication. So what can be done to help our children and ourselves in finding balance? Psychologists recommend setting family rules for screen time and getting kids active either through organized sports or free-time play. It is also very helpful if we practice what we preach. Play outside with your kids and encourage face-to-face communications. It will make a big difference.
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