A grandma friend asked me for some advice on how to handle a technology problem with her grandchildren. Her 11-year old granddaughter and 8-year old grandson came to spend the night and brought their new iPads. My friend told me the children received the iPads for Christmas and the parents were using them as “babysitters” because mom had the flu and couldn’t get out of bed.
The grandparents were frustrated that the children didn’t want to engage with them but just wanted to play games on their iPads. They were suddenly forced into power struggles they’d never faced before. As involved and creative grandparents, they’ve hosted regular overnights, taken vacations together, and enjoyed holiday craft projects all year long. But since the arrival of the new tech toys, the grandchildren have disengaged. My friend wondered whether she should ask the parents to keep the tech toys at home for the next visit.
Absolutely yes, I told her. Out of sight, out of mind and then you won’t have to deal with restricting their screen time. Although there are countless benefits to using technology, electronic devices can have negative side affects on children.
In an obvious exploitation of young, vulnerable children for commercial gain, toddlers are now being targeted with the recent introduction of YouTube Kids last month by Google and Amazon’s kid-safe tablet last fall.
Reasons for Limiting Kids’ Exposure to Technology
- It may interfere with sleep. Electronic stimulation has been shown to interfere with falling asleep and staying asleep.
- It may cut into family time and face-to-face interaction. Given how difficult it can be for families to find good quality time to spend with each other, having technology cut into those moments is something grandparents can limit when they’re with the grandchildren.
- It may encourage short attention span. Studies have shown that too much screen time may be associated with attention problems.
- It may interfere with schoolwork. Children who watch a lot of television are more likely to have lower grades and read fewer books.
- It may lead to less physical activity. More screen time has been associated with reduced physical activity and higher risk of obesity in kids.
- It may expose kids to too much advertising and inappropriate content. Many television shows and commercials depict sexuality and violence as well as stereotypes and drug and alcohol use – even when you’re doing a Google search.
How to Limit Technology
- Keep the television off when the grandchildren are visiting.
- Ask the parents to leave the tech toys at home.
- Opt for alternatives to technology activities.
I’ve personally experienced this same challenge with my granddaughters and wrote a post about limiting their cell phone use. My two granddaughters are the same age as my friend’s grandchildren but they have very limited exposure to media: no television or computer use. It makes it easy when I visit them because they have shelves of board games and art supplies and they love playing outdoors.
We grandparents can still remember the fun of sitting around the kitchen table playing cards and board games. We can give our grandchildren a respite from their fast-paced, technology-influenced lives by limiting their tech time and engaging them in face-to-face activities. I asked my granddaughters for their favorite board game recommendations.