Let's talk about social interaction versus device distraction: how to get your kids to step away from the screen and connect with you.
Ask your child “how was your day?” and invariably you will be met with a monosyllabic grunt, offering you absolutely nothing in the way of information and very few details that could lead to a meaningful conversation. Throw in the distraction of a TV, tablet or smartphone screen and the situation goes from difficult to borderline impossible.
In today’s always-on world, kids under 14 now spend more time on their smartphones than they do talking to their parents. On average, a child will now spend 23 hours a week using personal devices but just 12 hours engaged in conversation with their family members . Isn’t it ironic that in a world of screens and social media, technology purposefully designed to connect us with one another has become a conversational barrier within our own families?
Take a look at this picture…
No doubt this image depicts an all-too-familiar scene. Unfortunately, this is the reality of 21st-century dining dynamics—precious family time usurped by kids’ voracious appetite for tech over talk. For parents looking to use this time to emotionally connect with their kids, the stark reality is that the only connection their children are really interested in is the one with the Wi-Fi.
The stark reality is that the only connection children are really interested in is the one with the Wi-Fi.
From an emotional standpoint, this is naturally frustrating for parents. But unfortunately, it’s more than just family bonding time kids are losing out on when they're staring at screens over their spaghetti and meatballs (or the latest vegan equivalent). Research reveals a number of benefits to children who regularly participate in screen-free sit-down meals with their parents. Dr. Gail Saltz, clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the New York Presbyterian Hospital, says:
Children who have regular sit-down meals with their family are less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol or get pregnant as teenagers. They earn better grades. These benefits don’t accrue just because parents and children are munching carrots at the same time; they happen because the family is communicating .
When it comes to going sans screen, there’s no denying the benefits. A recent survey of 2,000 families found that 80 percent of parents had attempted to persuade their children to reduce their screen time and engage with the family . But, as parents know, this can often prove to be a Herculean task.
So here are some screen-free suggestions to help you out.
Screen free solutions
Make a vision board
Creating a vision board is a fun creative activity that presents an ideal organic opportunity to learn and talk about your child’s ambitions and aspirations while also teaching them about setting and achieving goals. So, break out the poster board, paint, magazines, and glue and let your child dream big.
Get creative in the kitchen
With the promise of delicious treats at the end of the process, baking cookies is an activity that your kids will require little to no persuading to join in with. It’s also a great way to spend some one-on-one time together. Baking presents a fun opportunity to introduce and practice math and science concepts through measuring and experimenting with ingredients, as well as helping to teach kids life skills like patience and the ability to follow instructions.
Build an obstacle course, go for a bike ride, play ball, do a scavenger hunt. The outdoors offers a plethora of opportunities and activities to help us connect with our kids. What’s more, studies show there are numerous benefits to children when they spend time out in nature, including reduced stress, improved academic performance and increased self-confidence.
Build a fort
Who doesn’t remember the childhood joys of blanket fort building? While we may not have realized it at the time, fort building is so much more than just a fun rainy-day activity—it’s also a great way to help kids develop their cognitive skills such as problem-solving and planning. But perhaps the best thing about this activity is its potential to unleash your child’s creativity and imagination. Whether it’s a secret clubhouse or a quilted castle guarded by a talking dragon, the possibilities are endless and offer you a glimpse into your child’s world, both real and imaginary.
Try talking through tech with ‘Yak Talk Back!’
Yes, we realize the irony in this suggestion. But here’s the twist. Technology—the very thing which has caused the conversational barrier between you and your kids—can also offer the solution.
The brainchild of audio content company Reel2Media, Yak Talk Back! is an innovative new Alexa Skill that promises to get families talking. Using technology for good, Yak Talk Back! is an interactive question experience created in consultation with learning experts and designed for families with children age 5-12. Unlike many existing Alexa Skills, Yak Talk Back! sets itself apart from the competition by combining character voices, original music and cutting-edge sound design to deliver a stimulating and fun environment in which kids can express and articulate their thoughts and feelings all while enjoying some important family time.
Led by the friendly and lovable character Yak, each session is comprised of a short story from Yak followed by three questions purposefully selected to help kids (and their parents) talk about their day and express their feelings while developing their social, conversational, and critical thinking skills.
Yak’s creators advise playing over a family meal for the optimum experience but stress the skill can be also enjoyed outside of mealtimes. With new content added daily, families can expect a unique Yak experience each and every session.
The skill, which is currently available in North America and the UK, is receiving rave reviews. Parents report that Yak has not only helped them talk to their kids during play, but that conversations continue outside of sessions, with children generally far more willing to converse and engage in family activities.
Fancy giving Yak a go with your family? Visit the Alexa Skill Store now, or simply say “Alexa, enable Yak Talk Back” to start the experience.