Matthew Gollub of Tortuga Press wrote me this morning in response to Teenagers and Technology, the article that ran in the newspaper today. Here’s what he had to say:
I read with interest your article this morning, “Are teens in tech overload?” I’m a local children’s author, performer and reading advocate. (I’ve spoken at over 900 schools and continue to visit around 60 schools a year.) Tech overload is a topic about which I speak during my school assemblies. Here are some suggestions which may help your readers:
*Tell your children from an EARLY age that too much screen time is not good for their growth. (By the time kids hit the teen years, it’s late and that much more difficult to get through to them.)
*Keep the media games, computer and TV OUT of the child’s bedroom. Studies show that kids spend LESS time on electronic media, and less time on questionable content, if the media equipment is in a central location where people (like parents and siblings) may walk in at any minute and see what’s going on.
*Place books in the bedroom instead of media equipment.
*Limit electronic media to, say, 30 minutes per day, maybe 1 hour on weekends. Or as Gov. Schwarzenegger’s family does, ZERO time during the week, to ensure plenty of time for school work and healthier activities. Again, the limits should start from an early age, like 5 or 6; a teen who already spends hours on electronic media each day has long since been allowed to make a wrong turn.
*Give kids healthy options to electronic media like sports, board games, outdoor games, etc.
*Model moderation! As parents, we need to limit TV and the time we spend ourselves on digital entertainment.
*Stage excursions to bookstores and libraries; de-emphasize the importance of places like the mall and Best Buy.
*Buy books for children as presents and rewards; make kids use their own money to buy video games, etc. (Making them figure out a way to earn money alone will make them spend time away from the screen.)
*Don’t allow your adolescent to have games rated beyond their years. (The rating industry exists to take the “blame” for young teens not being allowed to play M-rated games, etc.)
*Talk often and in depth about the games your teen play, exploring the games’ format and appeal. This will train them to view their games objectively. At times they’ll cringe at having to “de-brief” their fascination with a game, but communication works to de-mystify games and analyze the sway they hold over our kids.
For more parenting ideas, I invite readers to check out my picture book for parents, “Give the Gift! 10 Fulfilling Ways to Raise a Lifetime Reader.” Copies are available at the Sonoma County library. On a personal note, I know these strategies actually work. My wife and I have a 14-year old boy. He’s an A student who also stays active with music and sports. But, like most kids, he would be all too happy to spend hours a day on videogames, if only we gave him the chance.
For more information visit Matthew’s site at www.matthewgollub.com.
I wholeheartedly agree. The blame lies not with the child, but with the parents. Allowing a child to have TVs and XBox’s and computer games in their room is telling your child that they do not need to be a part of the family anymore. You’re telling them that they’re old enough to entertain themselves and stay out of your hair!
I would also suggest investing in a Wii if you do not have one. While most Xbox games may not be easy for those with limited video game experience, the Wii can be fun for the whole family. My 50+ year old parents purchased one recently and even my mom (who used to never touch video games) gets in on the games when we’re home.
I would say that this could even happen with books. Some kids will spend all day reading, which can be a good thing. But when they do not have a social life outside of the family and spend all of their free time in books, it could be easy for that child to have the same problems. This isn’t a technology issue. It’s an issue with ensuring your children are developing on all levels.