I love nurturing my kids with good food, but I know that’s only one part of creating a healthy and happy childhood for them. Nurturing their imagination, thirst for knowledge and creativity are all important too. One sticky question we have as parents in this modern world so full of screens and technology is when and where to draw the line for time spent in front of a screen.
We all will draw the line in different places, but I wanted to share with you three reasons I try to limit screen time, and specifically, time on the omnipresent smart phone with my kids.
But first, full disclaimer, we have plenty of devices in our house (an older iPad, two iPhones, laptops), and my parents own a Wii, which my kids adore. Because we allow technology in our home, we have to be more thoughtful of how much time we spend on it. This certainly isn’t an “anti-device” article, but rather one that shares how we are striving for balance.
You may be surprised to learn that this post is sponsored by a company, DefenderShield, that sells specialty EMF blocking accessories for all phones, tablets, and computers. When I approached them about sponsoring this post, with my strong opinions about technology, they were so encouraging. What I love about their company is that they don’t merely try to sell you on using your tech toys all the time now that they are “safe”, but rather that they support a balanced lifestyle. (More on them in a second, but check them out! I love their products.)
For the Sake of Our Children’s Development
It Shouldn’t be a “Shut Up” Toy
Let’s be honest. We simply don’t know all of the ramifications of the newest technology we have and how it will affect our children’s brain and emotional development. While we don’t have 20 years of research on the topic yet, we do know that researchers are concerned about possible consequences of our constant use. There is concern especially now that smartphones and tablets are so commonplace.
A study released this month in the journal, Pediatrics, shared disquieting information. One growing concern is the use of technology to soothe children and keep them quiet. This is sometimes called “shut up” technology. Is this going to be detrimental to their emotional health? The research authors say, “Because young children need to develop internal mechanisms of self-regulation, it needs to be determined whether mobile device use, although helpful in the short term, could be detrimental to later social-emotional outcomes when used as the principal way in which children are taught to calm themselves down.” 1
This isn’t about never using tablets or smartphones to help calm a distraught child. For example, we found it very helpful in distracting our five-year-old daughter during a blood draw, or for any of our children when they are ill. But the question remains, if we never teach children to self-regulate without using our smartphones, how can we expect them to be emotionally whole as they grow?
It seems like common sense that we should help them develop patience and social skills without the constant use of technology. This is just one reason we should consider whether or not pulling out our iPhone for every drive or our sit-down restaurant experience is a good idea. An aside, if we can’t pull ourselves together and keep our smartphones in our pockets or purses when we are eating together as a family, we aren’t a good example either.
Plus, I find that the more my children play video games, or spend time on the iPad, the more likely they are to argue, be grumpy, and have bad attitudes. Sometimes I wonder if we are borrowing some moments of peace against a future of bickering!
Under 30 Months
Researchers also warn that when this technology encroaches on the under 30-month crowd, it could negatively affect their development. Normally they develop through interactions with the real world and unstructured play time. Constant screen time could have ramifications for their intellectual, social, and emotional health in the future. Once again, common sense, but technology ends up being a poor replacement for time with people and creative play. (2, 3)
We want to nurture a rounded world of creativity
Let’s all admit that there are some amazing apps you can use to do very cool and creative things on your computer and other devices. For example, we have a stop-motion app on our phone that our oldest uses to make stop motions films. What a wonderful way to harness technology for creative purposes.
As adults, we can access a vast array of information that we can then use to build things, write things, cook things, and learn about things. In fact, I bet a lot of you are reading this blog post on a smartphone. My favorite use of my iPhone is reading books on my Kindle app. I love that I can bring around books with me wherever I go. And I admit that I use my Pinterest app often to get new recipe or decoration ideas (It was my go to for decorating a family birthday dinner for my one-year-old!).
But have you ever noticed that sometimes instead of using your smartphones to enrich your lives, they end up being a time waster? Like when you end up watching funny or cute YouTube videos for far too long. Have you noticed that sometimes instead of helping you have a richer, more creative life, they end up just wasting your life?
I think that can be true for our kids too. Certainly, if it happens to us, it can happen to them!
We want our kids to not only know how to work creative apps on our phones, but also, how to have imaginative play, and to entertain themselves. We want them to read books – real books – since studies do show that reading them in their old-fashioned form best (4) – as well as doing fun phonics games on the iPad. We want them to run outside and play house, and kick a ball around. We want them to pursue the crafts and art skills that they desire. And we know that if we let them endlessly play video games, watch TV or movies, and play on our iPhones, that their energy and time would be completely sucked up.
We want better for our children.
Boredom may be needed for creativity
We want better for our children, and that may mean allowing them to be bored. When do you take out your phone? It’s generally when you have a moment of peace, and find dreaded “boredom” hitting you. But what happens when we fill in those pauses of our lives with tweeting, scrolling Facebook, and watching videos on YouTube? It could mean the death of our creative potential. If we just consume technology, we won’t be able to create anything of worth.
This may be even truer for our children who are still developing their sense of creativity, and I am loath to stunt that.
BBC had an interesting article on this subject. Dr Teresa Belton, an education expert, made the case for the need of some boredom for children to develop their creativity. They reported, “When children have nothing to do now, they immediately switch on the TV, the computer, the phone or some kind of screen. The time they spend on these things has increased. But children need to have stand-and-stare time, time imagining and pursuing their own thinking processes or assimilating their experiences through play or just observing the world around them. It is this sort of thing that stimulates the imagination, she said, while the screen ‘tends to short circuit that process and the development of creative capacity'”. (5)
Short circuiting my children’s creative capacity makes my blood run cold.
Health Concerns for Children using SmartPhones
But even if I felt that my children’s lives were enriched by smartphones, this last concern would loom large still. Yes, the research on this topic is still early and conflicted. But I choose to remain cautious. Did you know that Belgium, France, India, and other governments are either passing laws or warning their citizens about the potential dangers of children’s use of wireless devices, such as smartphones?
Smartphones can be emitting several forms of radiation, all of which can be concerning. For example, your phone could be emitting cellular radiation (RF radiation), WiFi Radiation (RF radiation), Bluetooth radiation, and Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) Radiation.
“Please.” You may question, “Every adult, grandparent, toddler and pet uses smartphones now. How can it be unhealthy for my child.” To which I answer, “Leaded gas and leaded paint were used in almost every car and home for decades too. Turned out not to be such a hot idea after all.”
As research continues, caution seems wise. Microwave radiation could be especially harmful to children and unborn babies. A study review published in the Journal of Microscopy on July 15th reported:
- We should be especially concerned about radiation from devices with children and pregnant women as it appears that they face higher health risks than adults from radiation.
- This is partly because their brains are less protected than adults.
- The government has already issued warnings about the risk, but most are unaware of these warnings.
- Even cell phone manuals make clear that there are potential health risks.
- Current guidelines are outdated and need to be revised.
- Wireless Transmitters are not toys, and we should try to protect our children and unborn children. (6)
While previously Forbes had rather scoffed at the idea of harm coming from cell phone radiation, they reported on this study last year, as it truly is concerning.
While we don’t have all of the answers yet, I feel that there is a reason to be cautious, especially regarding our children.
Furthermore, studies have linked RF radiation to higher rates of autism (7), cell phones may have negative effects on sperm (8), ELF radiation causes DNA strand breaks (9), and there is support for EMF – RF radiation being a human carcinogen (cancer-causing). (10)
Reducing Cell phone EMF – RF exposure from our Cell phones
- Use them less.
- Put on speaker phone and keep the phone at least 6 inches from your body when talking on the phone.
- Don’t carry your phone on your body, or put in your pocket or bra.
- Put on the flight option when not using the internet or making phone calls/texting.
- Use a DefenderShield case on your phone at all times. (blocks virtually all EMFs and RF radiation).
I’ve been trying out several of the DefenderShield products and have been impressed with them. I appreciate that their products are third party tested and that they block nearly 100% of EMF exposure. It’s been sturdy, looks nice, and has relieved some of my concerns when my children end up using my phone. I also appreciate that when I am using my iPhone for business-related activities, or when I am texting friends, that I am also more protected from potentially harmful rays. (We also are trying out their laptop and tablet radiation shields, and have found them very helpful as well.)
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They get my stamp of approval.
As does a well-rounded life, full of creativity, good books, and screen-free time spent in the great outdoors.
You tell me: Do you limit screen time with your kids at all? I’d love to hear!
Disclaimer: Sponsored posts are always my opinion and I only work with companies I personally hand pick and believe in. I am compensated for my work, and may also receive products to try out.