I was doing my morning yoga after breakfast last week when my eyes landed upon a stack of National Geographic Kids’ books nearby in a pile with other books. My kids were finishing breakfast and starting to get under each other’s skin. So I grabbed the stack of kids books and placed them on a side table close to where I was doing yoga. Within seconds they flocked to the books like birds to seeds and sat reading them quietly for the next half hour. It’s a beautiful silence. I often set out stacks of children’s books, as I did here, to grab their attention – we do it for adults, with magazines and books ever so attractively positioned on coffee tables, so why not for children too? It helps them build a love for reading, an interest in learning, to self entertain in an age where most sit down with devices and press a button or two to be entertained.
It’s up to you – the parent or adult – to influence, encourage and motivate your kids to live and explore beyond cell phones, video games and computers.
Don’t fall under the assumption that it’s a losing battle because “it’s just what this generation does”. There are countless studies about the negative effects of not only the devices and their addictive, interactive effect on kids, what it does to their moods, sleep and lack of interaction with people, but the effect of consistent exposure to radiation emitted from these devices is far more dangerous than for adults. This fact alone should alert parents to exercise healthy usage standards.
I have friends who tell me their children’s behaviour and moods change during and after using technology. Here is an interesting Psychology Today article that speaks of “wired and tired” kids, saying that consistently high arousal levels impacts memory and the ability to relate, leading to both academic and social struggles. The cause – every day use of electronics. The solution they say is like an electronic detox for a few weeks, to allow the nervous system to ‘reset’. Check it out – really interesting points detailing how these mood disturbances happen; for example:
The dopamine released during ‘gaming’
looks the same as cocaine.
After time more and more of the same stimulation is needed to experience the same pleasure – enter addictive behaviour and over use. Not only would that be frustrating for kids to feel they are not in control of the situation or their behaviour, but enter the kids becoming agitated and having trouble entertaining themselves in ways they used to – inside the house and more importantly, less time outside in nature. Nature is naturally therapeutic and reduces stress, ironically they need it more now than ever!
First, some tips to encourage other interests outside of wireless device play. Then a quick look at some of the dangerous health effects on kids.
what you can do to encourage non-digital playtime
• set out books or games for kids to engage in play with friends or siblings
• set limits for device time (though I’m a believer in no device time depending on the age; my 4.5 year old gets zero device time nor has she ever asked or wanted it because it’s not a focus in our house.)
• play games together after dinner (my kids love backgammon, chess, double solitaire; and I just realized I haven’t taught them the card game spoons so that’s up next!)
• be prepared with other activities to turn to to keep your kids busy; don’t resort to handing them a device to busy them… keep dot to dot books, crafts, Kumon workbooks, and sports equipment handy for these moments
• outside time – don’t organize anything for them, just send them out or join them on a nature walk; nothing boosts energy like being outside
• encourage imaginary play – have a costume box or puppets
• create an arts & crafts centre that they can access supplies whenever they want; it’s amazing what they’ll do on their own if there’s a designated area for it vs you having to pull things out only at times when you suggest doing art
• educate your kids – go over the list below of ways to reduce exposure so that they understand the risks; show them the brain graph, above, on how much more radiation is absorbed by their brains vs adult brains. You may find that they are more co-operative about less device play time then you might think.
• ask organisations that you are apart of to ban electronics on special event nights like awards banquets, team parties, etc… I sent an email to our ski club managers this past winter requesting this for our kids’ annual ski racing banquet (kids not listening/focusing the prior year due to wireless devices had been observed). I immediately received an email back saying it was a great idea. A newsletter went out to all parents requesting no devices were allowed. Done.
Ok, back to the health risks from harmful emissions. There is no question that radiation enters the brain from using cell phones. What is the safe amount is what some disagree on. The higher amount of fluid in a child’s brain, thinner skin and skull allows for children to absorb more radiation than adults. Children also face a lifetime of exposure. Did you know the fine print of your cell phone manual warns you about the dangers of holding the cell phones against your head? How many people have this brought to their attention when they buy a cell phone? How many people unknowingly hand their child their cell phone on a regular basis to speak to someone? And then store it in their pocket against their body. (Anytime I see a friend on the ski hill with the phone inserted between their ear and ski helmet, hands-free, I give them light-hearted hell but it’s usually met with indifference.) Your iPhone suggests how to limit “radio frequency” exposure, stating:
“…carry iPhone at least 10mm [1 cm] away from your body to ensure exposure levels remain at or below the attested levels.”
(You can find this in Settings > General > About > Legal > RF Exposure.) The radio frequencies (similar to what microwaves use), a form of electromagnetic radiation – also known as wifi, allow your device to connect to the internet wirelessly
1. Limit the length of cell phone calls,
• turn airplane mode on (I often reluctantly carry my phone on me – in a pocket, etc… because I’m a mom with kids – so hello, need a camera on me at all times in case I need to shoot 15 photos of a certain moment I only recently learned if I turn on airplane mode that it becomes safe and cuts off all signals/emissions (so you can’t call or text). This might be a more convenient option if you don’t want to turn your phone off.
(I tried to keep this as short as I could A more in depth look at wireless signals and are they harmful to our health in an upcoming Part II blog post. You can check out Dr. Devra Davis’ site, Environmental Health Trust and another for some more info, in the meantime.)