The average young American now spends practically every waking minute – except for the time in school – using a smart phone, computer, television or other electronic device, according to a new study from the Kaiser Family Foundation
Those ages 8 to 18 spent more than seven and a half hours a day with such devices, compared with six and a half hours five years ago, when the study was last conducted. And that does not count the hour and a half that youths spend texting, or the half-hour they talk on their cellphones
-Tamar Lewin (January 20, 2010, The New York Times)
It seems crazy how much children use electronic devices these days. And it isn’t limited to just children. I find it easy to spend too much time on my iPhone. I can check Facebook, play Words With Friends, and read my email throughout the day. The boys can easily get lost playing on their computers or on their Nintendo DS game systems.
It doesn’t seem healthy to spend that much time playing on electronics – there is little thought and creativity required when playing video games. I have given up video games several years ago; I found it too easy to get lost in the games and spend way more time than I wanted playing.
We decided as a family to take a small step. It wouldn’t be fair to ban the boys from video games, while the adults were still allowed to play on their iPhones. So now, most Saturdays are electronic free days. That goes for both adults and children. We try to be reasonable. One can use the phone (how else for the boys to arrange to have friends come over and play). The computer is allowed for homework (not really playing) or writing on blogs (writing requires creativity – and is a challenge for the boys). We also are flexible. If the boys are exhausted from running around all day outside – we can put on a movie or the TV for a little bit late in the afternoon for everyone to rest a bit.
So how are we doing on with our electronic free day? I notice a difference in myself and the boys on these days. We all sleep better at night when we have been both physically and mentally active during the day. I have lots of time to get things done – including more time playing with the boys. There is a lot less fighting between Will and Ben. Of course we aren’t perfect. There have been times where I check my email – yesterday while Will was at soccer camp for 90 minutes for example (next time I’ll bring a book).
Now time to put the computer down, and head back out to the workshop to build some more walls (either that or mow the lawn)…