We live in a world where it’s normal for a seven-year-old kid to watch three hours of TV every day, or where an 18-year-old spends his entire weekend squirreled away in a basement playing video games and watching pornography. We live in a screen-addicted world where we – parents – are doing our children a disservice by allowing them to fall behind. But we also have the power to change this reality.
4 Realistic Tactics for Raising Kids Without Screen Addictions
There’s no doubt that our world is controlled by mobile devices. Just spend a few minutes in a waiting room, on a bus, or in a coffee shop and you’ll notice that the majority of people have their noses buried in screens. And while there are plenty of productive and useful reasons for using digital devices, our societal overdependence on them is perfectly exemplified in the widespread adolescent addiction that permeates our homes and schools.
It’s impossible to raise a child in western society without some exposure to screens, but that doesn’t mean your children have to be screen junkies who are constantly looking for the next hit of media or entertainment. With a disciplined strategy, you can raise kids free of digital addiction and bring them up to be functional and productive members of society. Here are some effective (yet realistic) tactics for doing so:
- Be Intentional With Where You Live
Think about where you choose to live. This will have a significant impact on your child’s interests, activities, and understanding of how things are done. For example, you may find it easier to raise a screen-free child in a suburban or rural area, as opposed to in the middle of a massive city. You also need to think about the specific street, neighborhood, or area of town that you reside in.
Over the last few years, we’ve seen a rise in the number of planned communities that prioritize social interaction and environmental engagement over isolation and screen time. Wildflower – Utah’s first “Active Family Community” – is a great example of this.
“Your immediate environment – and the availability of activities in your area – has a direct impact on your child’s desires and behaviors,” the Wildflower development team explains. “We’ve intentionally designed Wildflower with acres and acres of trails, parks, and open spaces as a way of giving families as many screen free options as possible – right in their very own backyards!”
Be intentional with where you choose to live and your decision to raise low media children will seem like less of a battle.
- Lead by Example
As you know from personal experience, your children are watching and listening to everything you do and say. If you’re telling them they can’t watch TV, play video games, or scroll through their phone – yet you’re doing these very things – your home will be filled with friction and resentment. The best thing you can do is put the phone down, turn off the TV, and lead by example. Not only will your children respect you more, but you’ll actually develop far more personal and engaging relationships with them.
- Creation Over Consumption
Technology can either be used for consumption or creation. When you view digital devices through this lens, a solid framework develops for what is and isn’t acceptable.
“Choose creation whenever possible,” best-selling author Joshua Becker suggests. “This is, perhaps, one of the most important distinctions concerning technology that we can teach our children. We can play video games… or we can create them. We can browse Facebook… or we can create places and communities that serve a purpose. There is a place in our world for technological consumption—but as an approach to life, creation trumps consumption every day. Help your children know the difference.”
- Don’t Demonize Screens
Parents often make the mistake of demonizing screens – or at least that’s the vibe they communicate to their children. However, it’s important to remember that this isn’t a black and white issue. There’s plenty of margin and it’s best to use discretion.
For example, don’t try to redirect your child’s gaze when you’re in a restaurant and he sees a football game on the massive TV across the room. If he likes watching the game, that’s fine. Same goes with friends’ homes. If your child goes over to a friend’s house and the parent puts on a Disney movie, it’s okay! There are certain environments that you can’t control – nor should you try. Focus on the big picture and don’t get lost in the particulars.
Give Your Children a Leg Up
It’s tempting to feel as if you’re doing your children a disservice by preventing them from indulging in some of the same forms of entertainment that their friends are enjoying. However, you have to trust your discretion and understand that you’re actually giving them a long-term advantage over their peers. By delaying excessive media exposure, you give them the opportunity to activate their imaginations, think creatively, and develop well-rounded social skills that benefit their personal and professional lives. When doubt creeps in, remind yourself that you’re doing the right thing!