Is My Child…Addicted to Technology?

If you had to guess, how many hours per day would you say your child spends on electronic-related activities?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a 2010 research study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that children and teens between the ages of 8 to 18 years spend on average more than 7 hours per day with various forms of media and electronics. Believe it or not, the only other activity that children and teens typically spend more time engaging in is sleeping!

Many parents recognize that there is an ongoing dilemma with the amount of exposure children and teens have to mass media and electronics in the form of television, movies, cell phones, video/computer games, and the Internet. However, the above statistics may be even more alarming than anticipated.

Children and teens today are spending less time participating in creative outlets. They are no longer as interested in reading books and magazines, rather they are more engrossed in social networking through “tweets” and “newsfeeds” on Facebook. Their free time is often more absorbed with interactive video gaming or conversations with friends via text messaging, instead of conversing with family members about their day-to-day activities.

When the ongoing use of electronics becomes an integral part of children and teens’ lives, it can sometimes have detrimental effects. Some studies suggest that social networking can bring about feelings of sadness and low self-esteem in teenage girls. It also places children and teens at greater risks for cyber bullying, social anxiety and addictive tendencies. In addition, when children and teens isolate themselves by using electronics for hours upon end, they are less dedicated to schoolwork and more susceptible to decreased physical health.

Technology dominates every facet of our children’s lives from academics to social interactions to leisurely activities. For some families, it has shaped their lifestyles to be completely different than generations past. The challenge that most parents face today is finding ways to utilize technology in a manner that is more beneficial and less harmful to their children’s wellbeing. So, empowering your child to use technology to create more healthful opportunities is a great place to start!

Decreasing Your Child’s Time Spent Plugged-In

Below are some creative suggestions on how parents and their children can utilize the benefits of technology to promote wellness-related family activities:

MapMyRUN (http://www.mapmyrun.com/) is a wonderful website that enables children to use a geographical map to calculate their mileage while running. For example, if your child likes to run from your home to a nearby park several times a week, MapMyRUN can track details of his or her physical activity. It also offers updates on fitness events in the Columbus area, such as community walks/runs (i.e., the Annual Turkey Trot). Children can also download iMapMy+ from their iPhones or iPod Touch and track their every step with a built in GPS (this includes running, walking, riding, and hiking), and update their physical activity via Facebook!

Trails.com (http://www.trails.com/) is another website that offers great ideas for children and their parents to plan a day hiking trip. Children can search for hiking trails throughout Columbus. If they find that they enjoy hiking, they can also use their imagination to plan for future hiking trips all over the United States! Trails.com also offers fun tips on outdoor activities for all family members to enjoy.

Wii Fit (http://wiifit.com/) is a creative way to get your child involved in entertaining physical exercise. Wii Fit is a Nintendo video game that offers over 60 activities that include strength training, aerobics and yoga, as well as a multitude of other fun, family-oriented games such as tennis, bowling, and obstacle courses for all family members to benefit from.

Geocaching (http://www.geocaching.com/default.aspx) is an innovative way to seek new adventures with your family. It is a high-tech treasure hunting game that is played all over the world. With a GPS, families can set out to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, in their area and then share their treasures and adventures online! Geocaching is also a fun way to positively interact with others through social networking.

If your child spends too much time with electronics and/or has accompanied feelings of sadness, social anxiety or low self-esteem, counseling can help children and parents make use of technology in a way that promotes a more balanced lifestyle.