Janis Joseph recently sat down with her children at dinner and announced a household “device detox”. She was not sure of the reaction she would get from the four youth, aged 11 to 13, but she believes the long-term effects of less screen time will be a healthier lifestyle.
“I was sick and tired of seeing their faces looking at a screen, so when I told them we are doing a device detox, they said, ‘What’s that?’,” Joseph said. “I keep their iPods in my room and they have one hour a day on weekdays and two on weekends to use them.”
Although it is debated among scientists at which age the brain is fully developed, the consensus is that between the ages of 10 to 25 the brain is developing for its future use. That is a concern for Joseph, who is not only a mother, but a professional who works daily with children with behavioural challenges.
“I have been seeing the lack of kids having the ability to communicate with each other and have articulate, face-to-face conversations with people,” Joseph said. “Their social skills are fading.
“The things they are watching and the games they are playing are so fast, and impulsive that their heart rates are functioning, but not in a productive way. One of the most important activities needed for the healthy growth of children’s mind and body is movement. If they are not moving, the synapses in their brains aren’t getting the exercise they need to expand and connect.”
After only about three weeks on the detox, Joseph said the kids are getting used to the idea, mainly because they have always been busy with extracurricular activities. Between her two biological children and two added siblings, Joseph taxies them to dance, gymnastics, taekwondo and basketball.
“Kristen is always on the go, and needs to move,” Joseph said. “I can’t keep up with her. And Maddie just lives at the dance studio.”
The boys, too, both enjoy indoor and outdoor activities, but Josh, at age 11, is still drawn to his video games.
“Josh is having a harder time,” Joseph said. “The first thing he says when he gets in the car after school is, ‘Can I play Splatoon?’. I realized that when you are taking away one behaviour from a child, you have to replace it with another.
“So, he is in the Steve Nash basketball camp and is learning new outdoor activities to nurture his body.”
She stressed that not everything has to cost money and suggests taking family walks or bike rides.
Now Joseph is extending her device detox advice to the community by offering an “unplugged” summer for all community children.
With nature-themed weeks of the four elements, including earth, fire, water and wind, all activities and events will be outdoors.
Small field trips to local attractions will also teach the children to use public transit and important social skills.
Although eight weeks in total, families with kids from age five to 12 can choose between one or all eight.
Contact Joseph at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to register.