Ten Steps to Successfully Unplug Children from Technology, by Chris Rowan, Zone’In Inc.
In the information sheet, Ten Steps to Successfully Unplug Children from Technology, Chris Rowan, an experienced facilitator and author in the area of children and technology who presented at the 2014 Vancouver Island CAPC, CPNP, AHSUNC Regional Training, offers tips on disengaging children from an unhealthy dependence on technology.
- Become informed regarding the effects of technology on child development and learning: “The signs of technology addiction are tolerance, withdrawal, unintended use, persistent desire, time spent, displacement of other activities, and continued use.” Chris recommends that parents inform themselves about the issues around overuse of technology.
- Disconnect yourself – Be available for your children! “Parents should … model balancing technology use with other activities. Schools could sponsor a Tech Unplug week where classrooms compete to reduce technology use in home and school, or have one day per week with NO TECH.”
- Reconnect – Designate “sacred time” for your children. Chris states that technology addiction is linked to ‘social anxiety’ and related to attachment issues. She suggests that parents and teachers explore their own experiences of attachment. “Designation of ‘sacred time’ in the day with no technology (meals, in the car, before bedtime, and holidays) is a first start to reconnecting with your children.
- Explore alternatives to technology as a class or family. “Not all children are interested in or value the same activities as adults. Fostering a tolerance for differences and respecting individual preferences can go a long way toward promoting children’s motivation to unplug.” She suggests making a list of activities that the family would enjoy, such as games, story nights, making a play, building a cushion fort, play wrestling, or having a family cooking night.
- Enhance skills prior to unplugging your children. “Self-identity, social skill, relationship to nature, and sense of spirit, are often disconnected in children who overuse tech. Drastic or sudden reduction in technology…will result in chaos at school and home as the child is now alienated from what has become their whole meaning for living. Help build performance skills by exposing children to alternate activities that are…not too hard, not too easy, to build skill.”
- Enhance development and learning through engagement in the four critical factors for child development – movement, touch, human connection and nature. “Children need to rough and tumble play 2-3 hours per day, and spend time connecting with their parents, teachers and other children, in order to achieve optimal physical and mental health” and to develop the sensory and motor development for literacy, numeracy, paying attention, and learning.
- Address perceptions of safety – Go outside! Go green! Chris believes that over-concern with safety needs and fear of litigation has made a great deal of urban outdoor play areas boring and unchallenging. “Outdoor rough and tumble play is a biological need for children, and has been proven to significantly reduce problematic behaviors, aggression, and attention deficit, as well as improve depression and anxiety.”
- Create individual roles and foster independence. “50 years ago, children had family jobs and chores that if were not performed, threatened the very sustainability of the family.” She recommends that parents and teachers “promote defined roles for children, and provide a structure where they can begin to try out new skills.”
- Schedule balance between technology use and activities. Chris stresses that it is the adult’s role “to teach children how to explore new activities, while providing predictable structure and consistency.” She recommends that families create a weekly schedule that balances ‘energy in’ (technology use) with at least equivalent ‘energy out’ time (movement, touch, connection and nature).
- Link corporations to community to create sustainable futures for children! Chris suggests that tech corporations re-direct a percentage of profits into support for playgrounds, recreation passes for children, parks and nature trails, and school camping trips to help build healthy communities.
For more information and resources, visit www.zonein.ca.