Mental Health Parenting Wellness

Institute a Technology-Free Zone for Kids

May 1, 2015

Institute a Technology-Free Zone for Kids

It is springtime here in the Midwest and we are enjoying the warmer temperatures and the emerging beauty that this time of year brings. This is also the time of year when our kids begin that final push for end-of-school-year activities and projects. In the field of mental health, May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Tucked inside the month of May is Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week. So let’s talk about our kids and our families in this blog post.

The end-of-year push of school activities, book reports, homework, and other projects can place a bit of pressure on kids, their parents and their teachers to get things done. There are quite a few timelines right now. Timelines help work get handed in, final grades posted, and that much-desired promotion to the next year of school granted, ensuring a care-free summer for our kids and for their parents, too.

Finding the right balance for our kids between the push of getting things done and the need for play and rest can be challenging. And, let’s face it; our children are immersed in the world of technology. They need technology to get their homework done and handed in on time, so they probably use a laptop or computer of some type. Depending on their age, your kids might also have cell phones, tablets and other devices that they use for games and staying in touch with friends. For the most part, technology is a wonderful thing.

The important thing to remember about wonderful things – like technology – is we are in charge of it rather than it being charge of us. Parents and teachers may have to challenge their kids to put the electronics aside and do something different. Swimming, biking, jumping rope, climbing trees – all those “kid things” that we enjoyed – are still there for our kids to do, too. But these types of activities cannot be done while using a laptop. Finding the balance between work and play also asks us to find the balance between using and not using our electronic devices.

In working with kids and their parents, many mental health providers promote some type of technology-free zone. The zone could be a time or a place. For example, a technology-free zone could be Sunday afternoons, the hour before bedtime, or even in the child’s bedroom. Encouraging kids to leave the tablet or computer and do something else can be challenging, but parents can consider doing the same thing. Maybe the hour before bedtime is a time to read your child a story, talk about the schedule for the next day, or help them talk about something that’s on their mind. A Sunday afternoon could turn into a biking excursion around the lake for the whole family, an outing to the zoo, or playing catch in the backyard.

As the weather gets warmer and the sunshine more inviting, consider ways to create balance in your own family. It’s true, technology helps us get our work done and it also helps us stay in touch with friends and family. There are many good things that our electronic devices offer us. Let’s also make sure we’re also setting technology aside once in a while and encouraging our kids to be kids. It really is all about creating balance, and finding what works for you and your family.

If you have a suggestion for others or a question about managing computers, cell phones, and electronic devices in your family, please write. It’s great to hear from our readers, and, as always, you might just help someone else find the right balance.

Karen Williams, LIMHP

Karen Williams, LIMHP is a Mental Health provider at CHI Health.

One Comment
  1. Cheryl Hruska

    I've tried many different methods to limit my childrens' use of electronics/technology, especially with their Ipod/Iphone that has such a small screen. We've also tried many methods of rewarding/encouraging good behavior. Now, at ages 9 and 12, what seems to be working the best now for both of these, is giving them plastic gold coins that are each worth 2 minutes of tech time. We try to give them out frequently to encourage even the simplest good behavior (walking past sister and not poking her for example or taking a shower without a fight). They choose when they will use the time that they accumulate although some times are not allowed, such as after 6:30 p.m. They are using less time per day than they have with other methods and there is less fighting and resistance than we've experienced before. For kids that may not need as much positive reinforcement as ours, the coins could each be worth more time. Its working great!!

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