It seems that everywhere we look, technology surrounds us. Television, iPads, cell phones, tablets, computers…these gadgets are everywhere and there’s no escaping it. Our children are growing up with screen-based activities, and it can feel challenging to raise happy kids in the digital age. The truth is, our kids don’t know a world without all of this technology.
As parents, it can be scary because we’ve all heard the negative effects that too much screen-time can have on kids and adults such as dry eyes, bad posture, headaches, poor sleeping habits, social issues, anxiety, depression, and even obesity. What we have to remember is that as parents, we can create an environment provides screen-free activities throughout the day for our children. We have the ability to rewrite the rules to ensure our kids are happy both on the inside and outside.
How To Raise A Happy Kid In The Digital Age
Provide opportunities for independence and problem-solving
From a parent’s perspective, I think one of the most frustrating things about raising kids in the digital age is that there is a sense of instant gratification. Anytime our children use technology, whatever they want to play, research, or watch, is given to them immediately, and with very little effort. This translates into other parts of their daily routine. We often see our kids become frustrated when they have to wait, or when something is hard for them to do. Sometimes we are supporting them too much.
Whether your child is a toddler or a teenager, be intentional about giving them tasks to do independently. When something is challenging for them, be it putting on their shoes or doing a math equation, allow them to struggle a bit. It’s good for their character, and in the end they will feel a sense of accomplishment.
Let them be bored
Depending on their age, many kids social media lives take up a significant chunk of their day. Their friends are doing it, and kids feel pressure to keep up. It’s okay to enjoy media in a variety of forms, but we all need a break from it. It’s our instinct, even as adults, to whip out our phone if we are the passenger in a car, or waiting in line at the store. Having “technology free” times during the day is one of the greatest things we can do for our entire family.
When your child is in the car, at the grocery store, or waiting for dinner to be ready, make it a mandate to turn off the tv and/or put phones away. It’s very possible that you’ll hear “I’m bored” several times, but that’s okay. Given the opportunity, kids will use their imagination to play, create conversation with you, or maybe just enjoy a few minutes of peace and quiet. Any of these scenarios can bring a feeling of joy and contentment.
Model healthy habits
Our kids are always watching us. I know I’ve said this before, and it’s something that I constantly remind myself, especially in today’s digital age. Technology is addictive, and I know I’m guilty of useless scrolls through social media every single day. When I finally put my phone down, I’m no happier and have only lost time in my day. The same goes for our kids. When I’m not working, I try to leave my phone in another room entirely. Doing this gets rid of the desire to mindlessly pick up my phone.
Our kids know when we are actually engaged with them, or our spouses. They also are aware of when we are only half listening to each other because of technology distractions. Quality time leads to supportive relationships, so we have to set the example for our families of how we can be happy and healthy without screens.
Screen Free Activities For Kids
We can encourage activities and hobbies that can give kids a sense of accomplishment without the use of gadgets. These are ideas that can foster connection between the two of you, and others. Especially with many households having school online, the need for screen free activities is more crucial than ever.
Visit the zoo
The zoo is such a magical place. I love it because it’s an outing that is well-loved by all ages. A day at the zoo lends itself to easy conversation and lots of walking. You’ll be too busy to even think about looking at your phone or tablet.
Go on a nature walk
My childhood memories are filled with playing outside with friends and siblings, with no screens to interrupt or distract our adventures. In this digital age, kids are spending less and less time outdoors. While you could watch nature movies, instead take a walk around your neighborhood or local park to just enjoy the simplicity of nature in real life. You can make it a scavenger hunt by looking for certain nature items, or bring bread to feed ducks if you have any local ponds.
Arts and crafts
Keeping some sort of area with arts and crafts items readily available is a great way to provide screen-free options. Spice it up with a variety of drawing tools like crayons, colored pencils, and smelly markers. Kids always surprise me and give me inspiration when I see what they are able to create when given art supplies.
Make a play date
To strengthen existing relationships online, set up play dates with your children’s friends. Aim to make it a screen-free time for them. In our digital age, many kids aren’t forming the same connections as in our generation, and so these in-person dates are really powerful for social development.
Take up a hobby
Television shows and online games are fun! It’s for that reason that it can feel hard to try and direct your child’s attention to something other than digital activities. Discovering hobbies that give kids purpose and keep them engaged is a game changer. Provide opportunities for your child to try out a few different hobbies to see what they most enjoy. Some examples are knitting, creating comic books, gardening, cooking, dancing, photography, or magic. Collecting items can be another hobby that often sparks curiosity and a sense of responsibility. Popular collection items are seashells, rocks, stamps, coins, and baseball cards.
These are all ideas to help you make small changes in your family’s daily routine to minimize screen time. Of course, screens are not going away and we can’t eliminate them all together. We just need to try to find a balance (if there is such a thing). When your kids are watching their favorite shows and movies, Common Sense Media is a great resource where you can check out trusted reviews created with families in mind.
How are you feeling about raising a happy child in the digital age? Let us know in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!