There's nothing more discouraging than to be vacationing with or visiting a grown child and his or her family only to find everyone glued to a smart phone, tablet, laptop, netbook or gameboy. There's hardly any acknowledgement that you've arrived, and if there is, it's to let you know they are in mid-game or mid-text or mid-thumb activity.
My theory on vacation is that it's their vacation, too, and if that's what gives them pleasure and relaxation, live and let live. But as an everyday diet, it's hard to accept the way the iWorld is full of exclusionary devices that inhibit socializing.It's a national phenomenon: Children between the ages of 8 and 10 average eight hours a day in front of a screen; teens clock in at around 11 hours. I don't even want to know the numbers for the 2- to 6-year old set.
In our family, we are fairly fortunate. Our grown kids aren't addicted to devices themselves and they have set limits on screen time for their children--that includes TV among the screens. The limits apply on vacations as well. What's the point in being in Vermont where the sun shines on the mountain brooks and trees shade the hiking trails if you're not out there to experience it?
But when parents don't set limits--or the limits are so loose they may as well not be there--can the grandparents step in? On her Web site on grandparenting, Susan Adcox addressed the grandparenting role in screen time, suggesting ways for us to set limits even if the parents don't.
She says it "quite acceptable" for grandparents to have rules about the use of electronic devices in their homes. Among the steps she says grandparents could consider when grandkids are coming to your house for a visit:
--Prepare your house. Turn off the TV, shut down the computers and tablets and put the phone on vibrate. "Then don't cheat. Children are smart. If you say you're checking email and you're really checking your Facebook, they'll figure it out."
--Ban media at mealtimes and bedtime. "If you're lucky enough to have spare bedrooms or a playroom for the grandkids, keep them media-free as much as is practical."
--Have lots of alternative things to do: games and activities such as exploring nature or cooking together.
She also has some strategic "don'ts":
--Don't ban electronics altogether. "It's a battle that you're likely to lose." Besides, at times electronic devices are valuable to have around--such as when you're driving them somewhere or you need a few quiet moments to yourself.
--Don't nag your teen grandchildren about their electronic habits. "It's counter-productive to make remarks such as, "Don't you ever get tired of staring at that phone?" (Clearly, the answer is no.)"