The Digital Diet & Why Your Family Needs To Know About It

By Virginia Van Epps, Manager, Speech Language Pathology at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center

In a world full of smartphones, tablets and apps, it can sometimes feel impossible to unplug. But the truth is, our everyday technology habits are threatening the speech, language and hearing of our children. So what can be done to limit adverse effects from our favorite gadgets and strengthen communication skills? It’s called the Digital Diet and it’s something you and your family can start putting into action today.

Nowadays, excessive tech use seems to be replacing human interaction. With so many tweens and teens misusing technology and listening at unsafe volumes, it is also posing the risk for hearing loss. Supported by the American Speech-Language- Hearing Association, the Digital Diet aims to help families prevent such risks and moderate tech use in favor of more conversation. Here are a few of my favorite tips from the ASHA to help put your family on a Digital Diet.

Host tech-free nights/events. Going tech-free on occasion can provide rich opportunities to build family and social relationships. Why not try a weekly game night? If the weather is nice, take your social gathering outside.

Designate tech-free zones in the home. The kitchen, bedrooms, the family room…there may be one place in your home that you’d like to keep devices out of, as a general rule. This helps with the temptation to constantly check your phone or jump at the sound of every incoming notification.

Talk over text, when possible. Though texting at times may seem more convenient it is not a replacement for verbal exchange, no matter how many emojis you use. When possible, call your child instead of texting him or her. To start, avoid texting when both of you are in the house.

Take a vacation from your technology. A smartphone and tablet free vacation may not be realistic for everyone, but maybe there are certain vacation activities you’d like to make technology-free while your away? For example, when dining out or at the beach.

Listen safely. Many kids spend hours a day with the volume cranked up, using headphones or earbuds. Unfortunately, they are putting their hearing at serious risk, so much so that the World Health Organization has labeled it an international health threat. This is a message that every child needs to ‘hear’ from their parents, so be sure to remind them.

As a parent, it is extremely important to lead by example especially when it comes to technology use. Your habits are on display and your child will want to see you participating in the Digital Diet too. Implementing a Digital Diet will most certainly take some adjustment, but I promise, once you get started, it will make a difference.

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