Modern technology can be both a blessing and a curse. In the case of television, video games and computers this technology can be used as an effective learning medium, can develop coordination and problem solving skills as well as stimulate discussion regarding values and moral behavior. However, it also has the potential to reduce meaningful interaction with others, encourage materialism, stimulate aggression and dull our sensitivity to real problems. As a concerned parent, your goal is to ensure that your children are not absorbing huge amounts of destructive information. The following tips will help you control and monitor the time your child spends in front of a television, computer or video game screen and help them develop a healthy relationship with media, in general.
1. Set limits
One to two hours is more than enough television viewing per day for a child, no matter how much he tries to convince you otherwise. The same rule holds true for video games. Encourage other activities that involve creativity, talents and physical fitness. Depending on weather and safety considerations, require your children play outside for a certain amount of time each day. Children are naturally imaginative, and they will surprise you with their ability to come up with fascinating games using only a stick and a pile of dirt. You should also set certain rules, such as no TV or video games before homework or chores. This also teaches your children to be responsible and manage their time effectively.
2. Set a good example
Examine your own television or computer habits. How many hours a day do you spend in front of a screen? Do you watch shows with violence or sexually inappropriate content? If your children observe this behavior in you, they will model it. Try to find ways to cut down on your own TV and computer time. Find activities that you and your children both enjoy that you can do together. Go for a walk, play a game or work on a puzzle. Teach your children other ways to entertain themselves that are interactive and encourage communication and togetherness.
3. Teach your children to be selective
Try making a plan and scheduling the television shows the family will watch in a week. Each family member can choose one or two shows they want to watch and which are consistent with the family's values. You can also help your children select appropriate video games. Before you buy a game, discuss its content with your children. You may have to rent or borrow a game to preview it, but this will inform you and your children of what options are available.
While watching TV with your children, you can talk about what is going on, what you are learning, and what choices the characters are making. During commercials, you can help your children distinguish between valid offers and selling tactics. Playing video games with your children is a great time to have fun, talk, and simply be together.
5. Explain your concerns
You can't expect your children to understand your objection to television or video games if you simply ban them, change the channel at an inappropriate scene, or become angry when they turn the TV on or start playing a game without your permission. Share your concern that too much of these sedentary activities will cause them to get out of shape and lose the opportunity to build talents. Discuss how various shows and games contain subject matter and behaviors that you believe are wrong and which can hurt other people.
A. Lynn Scoresby, founder and president of My Family Track , First Answers , and Achievement Synchrony , and has been a marriage and family psychologist for more than 35 years. He has published more than 20 books and training programs.