According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, kids and teens are spending 46 hours per week using electronic media. Now, parents are becoming increasingly concerned that time on the computer is robbing their children of real-life experiences.
The 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing provide an opportunity for parents to interest kids in real-world activities that will help them balance their real life with screen time.
A study by Harris Interactive indicates that nearly 23 percent of youth report that they feel “addicted to computer games.” A new children’s book and animated film, produced by the non-profit Internet Keep Safe Coalition, uses the Games to teach kids what can happen when online gaming takes over real life.
In “Faux Paw Goes to the Games,” the Web-surfing, six-toed cat and Tai Shan, the youngest panda at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, travel to Beijing to light the Olympic flame at the Great Animal Olympics, “Where we set aside our animal differences and play games in peace.”
When Faux Paw becomes distracted by an online game (Worlds of CatWars), Tai Shan helps her realize that real life can’t wait for the game to end. The book and companion DVD (available at Amazon.com and iKeepSafe.org) give parents an opportunity to start a conversation with their children about maintaining a healthy balance. They also contain strategies for parents trying to help children set limits on their computer time.
Dr. Kimberly Young, clinical director of the Center for Internet Addiction Recovery, suggests:
– Address the problem.
– Show you care.
– Become more computer-savvy.
– Set reasonable rules.
– Make the computer visible.
– Encourage other activities.
– Support, don’t enable.
– Use outside resources when needed.
Concerned parents can assess their child’s level of dependence on the computer with Young’s online Parent-Child Internet Addiction test, available at www.iKeepSafe.org/TEST. Parents will also find tutorials and information that will help them prepare their children to use the Internet safely.