Meat-free Mondays: How healthy is your family’s daily digital diet?
- An unhealthy daily digital diet is hard to spot in our children if we as, parents, do not balance our own digital diet.
- Just like too much sun or sugar have health consequences, so too does a child’s digital consumption. There are not only negative effects on the brain and eyes, but also lost opportunities in the form of emotional, social, physical and practical skills development.
- As parents, we are responsible for creating appropriate, healthy boundaries for our children – they are just not equipped yet to do this for themselves.
As parents today, we grew up learning from our own parents that, before we let our children loose under the African sun, they need a good wipe of sun cream. Similarly, we have learnt and understand that too much sugar is unhealthy for their growing bodies and it needs to be limited. These are some of the basic elements of a good parenting repertoire, that we take for granted but it is learnt behaviour.
We have no example or benchmark in our current day and age, for how to manage a potentially more dangerous challenge to our children’s health. Even when the signs are as obvious as sunburn or a sugar rush. A child that is aggressive or “flipping out” after gaming or too much time on social media, is easy to spot, but some of the other consequences of our children’s digital diets may be revealed in subtle mood swings, and gradual behavioural changes, including low enthusiasm, minimal interpersonal engagement and depression. These changes may be difficult to gauge when we, as parents, have unbalanced digital diets ourselves.
An unbalanced digital diet is marked by its ‘opportunity cost’. This is the hidden cost of the use of digital media: the ball game that wasn’t played, the book that wasn’t read, the new trick on a skateboard not learned, or a family walk which didn’t happen. An unbalanced, unhealthy digital diet not only changes the way our children’s brains, eyes, bodies personalities develop, but it takes from them the one thing they can never get back: time.
Consider the following three questions about yourself and then apply them to you child:
- Do you continue to think/talk about past device use, anticipate future use or spend considerable time checking your device for feedback on any device interactions?
- Have you set yourself limits in the past to how much daily digital media you will watch/use, and then broken those limits?
- Have you fudged the truth to someone you care about, to hide the extent of your digital media use?
If you answered yes to any of these questions for either yourself or your child, perhaps you should think about creating a healthier digital diet. We can help you!
Use our Healthy Digital Diet download as a guideline towards better understanding why and how limiting the amount and type of screen time your children are exposed too, is so important in terms of of your license to parent.