Community forum: Teach kids when not to use technology

This week’s writer is Linda E. Johnson, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Vermont.
I think most of us understand that technology devices and the Internet are here to stay. They are part of all of our lives whether in our doctor’s offices with online medical records or the many ways we use smartphones, laptops, workplace computers, online games, directional tracking, news and weather updates and televison or alternatives to television in our home and when we travel. Technology has transformed communication and made our world smaller and smarter.
Though all that is true, it is vital to remember that our children learn from how we conduct ourselves in all aspects of our lives, including our relationship to technology. If we are checking our emails at the dinner table or when we are out for a meal with our children, then they have no reason not to do the same.
One of my greatest pet peeves is when I see parents hand an iPhone to a small child at a table in a restaurant, a waiting room, laundromat or at home as a form of distraction or entertainment. Whatever happened to talking together, playing “I see something red,” reading a book or taking a short break to walk around with a baby or toddler or having a conversation?
Screen time can be fun but so can engaging in play, going outside for a walk, singing songs, cooking together, reading books, making up stories and talking together during meals with your children and other family members. How will our next generation learn how to be social beings if they are looking to a screen for stimulation, company and learning?
Screens are not a substitute for people. Let me say that again: Screens are not a substitute for people. Children and youth need time with people who are interested in them in order for them to grow into healthy nurturing humans capable of caring for others and leading communities and our state into the future.
It is the job of grown-ups to give children the experience of how life is to be lived. When our checking and sending emails takes precedence over being with family and friends, it is time to reorder our priorities.

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