Parents, foster agency, plug your kids into fresh air, sunshine and movement

Our grandsons would spend more time, if they could, in their electronic worlds. Screen time has a place, but not every place.

Parents can lead by example by playing an active role in not only monitoring the online content their child consumes, but also by limiting the time spent in the metaverse.

Now that school is out, there are many meaningful, fresh air and sunshine ways in which children can become physically involved and build up practical experience. As grandparents, we are aware of how easy it will be to leave our grandchildren with their own electronic devices. The benefits are quite similar to the disadvantages and parents understand well that screen time affects a child’s health and well-being. Emphasis on close-focused eyes and a lack of great motor skills challenge a child’s need to practice distance vision and great muscle coordination needed to move through physical spaces in the real world.

Spending time on virtual screens is time spent away from personal social interaction in real-life situations. Artificial light from screens can interfere with sleep. Powerful cutting-edge technology comes with powerful responsibility. And your child’s activities online are data that is collected and stored, and even sold to third parties.

In the 21st century we live in, where everything from menus to health to banking to education and beyond digitally driven, we are comfortable, but we must not become complacent.

I have no trouble disrupting an ever-growing, interconnected system that seems to be a neural network around our everyday lives. Rather than wasting time reprimanding our children for the potentially sedentary consequences of online onaction and its given oversight, we mobilize by offering disconnected alternatives. We expect groans or frowns. But we consciously push on, because the benefits of the extract outweigh their temporary disappointment. Instead, we indulge our children in opportunities to gain first-hand experience and get away with useful skills and lasting knowledge about how the world really works when you tackle it.

This morning, my grandson was immersed in a TikTok video. I give a head start that we will pull into our bathing suits for a moment and go to a local pond to go swimming. I say this with calmness and respect, firm and sure. This is a beautiful day and we will seize it. Sitting is the new health hazard and God knows we all get too much of it. The children’s job is to gather their own towels and help load the car with a cooler, life jackets and canoes.

I know we live in a world where our phones with all their notifications and our earbuds ready in chargers are never very far away. My mind is, less talking, more action. We experienced that scene in a public place when children’s and adults’ heads were bowed in front of their handheld devices. So, if everyone is focused on millions of small screens, who is focused on what is happening in the real world we are in?

In other words, would parents find it curious that technology magnates, like the late Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, have limited and even discouraged screen time for their own growing children?

So, instead of uselessly nagging or pulling out the electronic mat in an act of desperation under a child, kick in gear. Go from passive worry to active solutions. When it comes to disconnecting a sophisticated piece of technology, kids will naturally resist.

Collin, on a recent sunny, lazy morning, did not feel like leaving his iPad behind, even though we were zipping up life jackets and carrying the canoe all the way to the waterfront. To find our balance, we switched from country to more and distributed our weight evenly. Before long, we slipped along lily leaves and spotted a perch breaking the surface of the water before spying on a handful of sun turtles as they slid off their rocks and into the reeds below. Our grandson used his paddle like a rudder that steers us in the direction of an island, where we discovered blueberries, and miraculously kept some in a temporary bag to bake muffins for later.

There are many ways to disconnect. Older children can earn money by mowing gardens or weeding or watering. Each town has its local trails, parks, playgrounds, tennis and basketball courts, bike paths, dams, rivers and beaches to explore. Public places where families can move in healthy ways.

Electronics have a place, for sure, just not every place.

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