Do you ever feel that pull in your heart away from social media but you're just so not sure how to put some distance between you and the untamed beast?
I know I do.
Sometimes I wish I could go back to my old life before there was Facebook. While Facebook has had some life-changing impacts on our life by helping us discover OIT for our son's peanut allergy, most of the fluff in my Newsfeed I could have done without.
Don't get me wrong, I definitely appreciate how easy it is to get and stay in touch with people on Facebook. It has made life a lot easier in that regard, and on top of that, I have interacted with people that have been such a blessing in my life. But if I'm not careful, social media can become a mindless time waster that gives me shattered glimpses into other people's lives, often making me discontent with my own.
Having Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Google+, Instagram or any other social media account is not bad, but I have to remember that while they can have positive contributions to my life, they will never take the place of real interactions with the people I live with.
Social media can have positive contributions to my life, but it should never overpower the people in my life.
If you are familiar with the struggle of trying to not let social media take over you, or your family, then you may be very interested to read Growing Up Social, a newly released book by Dr. Gary Chapman (author of The 5 Love Languages series) and Arlene Pellicane (author of 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Wife and 31 Days to a Happy Husband). It's about raising relational children (and parents for that matter) in a screen-driven world.
This book is completely relevant, practical and gentle in its approach to dealing with the onslaught of social media in our lives.
In Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World, Chapman and Pellicane remind parents that they, not technology, are still responsible for educating their children about having healthy and fulfilling relationships.
In this book, you will find advice on how to use screen time in a healthy way, how to help you and your children choose interpersonal interaction over electronic companionship, and be reminded that a parent's influence over their child should be stronger than any technology or gadget.
This book is not anti-social media, but it is pro-boundaries when it comes to social media.
Just The Facts
But to give you an idea of what we're dealing with here, the authors share numerous shocking statistics that make you really give some thought to re-evaluating the role social media has in your home.
For example, did you know that the average American child, age eight to eighteen, spends more than seven hours a day looking at a video game, computer, cell phone, or television?
Or that by the age of seven, a child will have spent one full year of 24-hour days watching a media screen?
That is scary to me. With all of that screen time, it's no wonder that the average person's attention span has dropped 40 percent since the year 2000. (source: Growing Up Social, page 99)
To give you an idea of what our future looks like, consider this statistic about young adults between the ages of twenty-five and thirty-four. "In 2008, young adults read printed works for a total of just forty-nine minutes a week, down 29 percent from 2004. If today's young adult reads fewer than fifty minutes a week, what might the statistic be twenty years from now? Today's screen-driven child doesn't have the attention span to read books, yet research has repeatedly shown that access to books and reading time is a leading predictor of school success." (source: Growing Up Social, page 99)
Thankfully, it's never too late to start reigning in yours or your children's screen time. And honestly, it will probably be harder for you than it will be your kids. For some of us, screen time has become an addiction. We can't go a day without checking our Facebook Newsfeed, browsing Pinterest, or simply just surfing the net. I know, because I struggle with it, too.
But, we can make small, simple changes that will have amazing rewards.
Steps Towards Raising Relational Kids
One night, I chose to play a game with my kids. During the game, we laughed and admired each other and my oldest told me afterwards, "It's so hard to have the day end when it is so fun." I went to bed and woke up the next morning feeling very satisfied. Because of a game I played with my kids. I thought I was doing them a favor by playing with them. Turns out, I did myself a favor, too.
Or, how about implementing a D.E.A.R. Night? Everyone chooses a book (or picture book if you have young ones) and you set the timer for 15 minutes. During those 15 minutes, everyone gets to read whatever they want. When the timer goes off, you might be surprised to find your family still caught with a book in their hands.
Another thing that has helped our family was slowly cutting back on the amount of time the kids were watching t.v. or playing select video games. It was after talking to a mentor mom at church that I decided to follow her example and set some major boundaries on our children's screen time. At the time, they were probably watching about 2 hours of television a day. I think I cut it back to 1 hour, then a half hour, and now they usually watch only 15 minutes of t.v. a day. (There are exceptions, but that is the general rule).
When I first started cutting them back on t.v. I thought my life was going to be miserable because I would have whiny kids who would be upset about not watching that much television. Plus, I was going to have to figure out how to keep them occupied while I got work done. But, amazingly, while there may have been some whining in the beginning (I honestly can't remember) the kids adapted so well!
They now fill that time with creative play, LEGO building, reading or just playing with each other. If they tell me their bored, I may give a suggestion, but after that, any sighs of boredom=extra chores.
Giving kids boundaries is not the ball and chain many make it out to be. Our children know they are allotted 15 minutes per day of a video from our family library. (I also cut out the habit of letting them watch whatever cartoons they wanted to on Netflix) They also get 15 minutes of Wii and 15 minutes of Kindle Free Time (although usually only our younger son takes advantage of that and they are all learning apps). They also sometimes choose 15 minutes of an on-line learning program. Altogether, that equals one hour a day, but rarely do they choose to do all of those in a day.
Children are naturally creative. If we smother that creativity with television, video games, apps and more, what is that doing to the future of our country?
If your family is struggling with screen time, I strongly encourage you to read this book. I have learned so much from it and am thankful it made its way into my hands. It will continue to gently encourage me to choose the people, not the pixels, in my life.
As Arlene encouraged me during our phone interview, "You have a window of time to influence and train your children. You are training them for adulthood. [Your children] want to be with [you]. Now is the time to train and not be preoccupied with screens."
About the Authors
Arlene Pellicane is a speaker and author of 31 Days to a Happy Husband and 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Wife. She has been a featured guest on Fox and Friends, The Today Show, The Better Show, TLC’s Home Made Simple, The 700 Club, Turning Point with Dr. David Jeremiah and Family Life Today radio. Gary Chapman, PhD, is the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling The 5 Love Languages. With over 30 years of counseling experience, he has the uncanny ability to hold a mirror up to human behavior, showing readers not just where they are wrong, but how to grow and move forward.
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