Q: I’ve been hearing about the potential impact of electronic media on health, learning, and interpersonal relationships. Should I be concerned? If so, should it affect the limits I put on my children’s consumption?
A: According to the latest report from the Pew Research Center, 24 per cent of teens say they’re online “almost constantly.” Another 56 per cent report logging on several times a day. Of course, surfing the Web is just one aspect of today’s digital world. We also have to consider movies, TV, music, and video games. All of these have their place – and can even be beneficial when used wisely. But there’s increasing evidence that today’s media also puts children at greater risk for depression, obesity, attention problems, sexual promiscuity, poor grades, drug and alcohol use, anxiety, and low self-esteem.
In view of this, we would say “Yes. You have many good reasons for placing limits on your children’s consumption of electronic media.” Putting the Genie back in the bottle may not be pleasant. But as you know, being a responsible and loving parent sometimes means doing the hard thing. This may include gathering mobile phones at bed and meal times, setting one day a week as “Screen-Free-Day,” or even taking a screen-free vacation where electronic devices get left home. Just as important is to fill the void with fun and meaningful activity. And inviting your children’s input as to what that might look like can go a long way in easing the transition.
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