The holidays are a fun time filled with many new and exciting things. For most kids, opening up presents and finding a new gaming console or tablet is more than enough to send them to the moon. However, this excitement can sometimes lead to obsession.
From countless hours staring at a screen to forgetting what the outdoors looks like, it may be crucial for parents to find the perfect balance between enjoying a new gift and unplugging. A recent study estimates kids ages 8 to 18 spend an average of 7.5 hours a day with cell phones, computers, television, and other electronic devices. That means the only things keeping kids away from electronic devices are eating, sleeping, and school.
Here are eight ways to help a child unplug and strike a healthy balance between enjoying tech gifts and his or her family.
1. Negotiate an agreement. Include in each new tech product a contract for your kids to look over. In the contract, you should include how many hours they are allowed to use it daily, where it belongs during off hours, and other responsibilities.
2. Get outside. Plan family outings to give tech a break. Whether it is a family snowball fight or taking a sleigh ride, make it known that this is family time. Show your kids that family time does not have to be boring. Enjoying the winter weather can be a fun time for the family.
3. Family First. Talk to your kids about the importance of the holidays and spending time with family. While your kids may be traveling from one family holiday party to the next, their gadgets are not welcome. Allow your kids to use their gadgets in the car, but upon arrival, make sure the tech is tucked away.
4. If no creatures are stirring … don’t check your email. Remember, your kids learn their media habits partly from you. Use quiet time to reflect on ways you can maximize the benefits of technology without letting it take over your family’s life.
5. Talk to your kids. Have a family discussion about what activities they like doing best during the holidays. Then do the activities together sans gadgets.
6. Set aside time for them to play outside with their friends. Talk to the parents of your kids’ friends about organizing play dates and activities to keep kids entertained without screen time. Look up fun local winter events (baystateparent.com has nearly 150 listings starting on page 16.) and bring the clan along. Local outdoor ice skating rinks are a fun way to celebrate the winter season.
7. Turn off notifications. Turn off notifications and sounds while your kids are not using their devices. When the devices are turned off, there should not be any distractions or reminders to make kids want to use their device.
8. Wildlife in your own backyard. With cool winter weather, take your kids out looking for animal tracks. The whole family can have fun trying to identify the tracks and may also be lucky enough to see some wildlife.
The Camping and Education Foundation’s (campingedu.org) mission is to develop young men and women in body and spirit through wilderness experiences that celebrate a love of the outdoors.