Friday, January 22, 2010

Time to Unplug our Kids

The New York Times recently reported on a shocking study that indicated that kids are spending more hours online using their digital devices than there are hours in the day. How is this possible? Simple: they're using more than one device at a time. And, not surprisingly, it's affecting their grades, social interactions, and quality of life.
While most of the young people in the study got good grades, 47 percent of the heaviest media users — those who consumed at least 16 hours a day — had mostly C’s or lower, compared with 23 percent of those who typically consumed media three hours a day or less. The heaviest media users were also more likely than the lightest users to report that they were bored or sad, or that they got into trouble, did not get along well with their parents and were not happy at school.
The question is what to do about it? I don't think taking away a device for overuse is really an answer. After a certain age, a parent loses that type of control. I do though think that kids should pay for their cell and mobile internet usage. Perhaps if they have to pay for the service they'll meter themselves.
What we need to begin to do is educate our children about moderation and self-control. (To do that we also need to model this type of behavior.) It's great to check your email, but not if it's a compulsion to check your messages, Facebook and text your friends minute to minute.
Full disclosure: I'm a bit of an email junkie myself, checking my Gmail more often than I like to admit. I used to have a smartphone with cell service in Michigan, but when the then shul president questioned the expense, I decided to forgo it. It was liberating. I no longer felt the need to check my phone minute by minute. And if someone really needed to reach me, they could always call me. On the phone. With their voice.
Here in Israel I just got a new phone. And as much as I salivate for the cool iPhone apps - GPS, a siddur, a blender (have they designed an app that will bring Moshiach yet?), I just don't want my email on my phone. I'm connected enough.
We need to begin educating our children to disconnect from the "cloud" and start connecting to real life - friends, books, learning. Teaching them this skill, as challenging as it might be, may very well be the greatest skill we can give them: the ability to "consume" what the world offers us in moderation.

And here is the rest of it.