In the fall of 2018, Dr. Katy visited Children’s Hospital to attend a Grand Rounds lecture given by pediatrician and Harvard Medical School Professor, Dr. Michael Rich (known as “The Mediatrician”). Dr. Rich and his team at the Center on Media and Child Health research the complex effects of electronic media on children at all ages and guide parents and pediatricians in nurturing children in our changing environment.
Have you ever noticed that removal of electronic media from your child’s hands (or from your own) often results in some irritability? That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Dr. Rich is seeing a startling increase in addictive behaviors (which he terms “Problematic Interactive Media Use”). These include four media spheres: social media, gaming, pornography, and information (ie. online research). Dr. Rich is careful to point out that electronic media is not evil. It’s merely a tool that can be used in vastly different ways: for good, for bad and a lot in between.
Key take away points from Dr. Rich’s talk:
- The electronic media landscape is changing continually. Pay attention!
- Stay tuned in to your children. A child spending time alone in a room with doors shut and an electronic device in hand, may foreshadow further isolation, depression and high risk behaviors further down the road.
- Consider keeping cell phones out of your children’s rooms, or set a time limit after which the phones or iPads say “good night”. (Alarm clocks are better than cell phone alarms … no texting!)
- Consider taking what Dr. Rich calls a “Digital Sabbath” periodically: a total break from electronic media. If you cannot take a full day, consider taking a dedicated period of time away from your devices as a family.
Never underestimate the power of your influence as a role model. Dr. Rich encourages parents to be “balanced, mindful, and present.” That’s a tall order in our chaotic social environment, but it’s well worth the effort!