COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - With technology intruding on the family, what do you do to ensure a secure and healthy family structure?
Adults spend almost eleven hours a day on digital technology and social media. For teens and tweens, it ranges between 6 and 9 hours daily according to data from Common Sense Media, an organization dedicated to the study of media and technology and how it can be used to empower children.
Watching TV and listening to music are the top two ways those ages 8 to 18 are consuming digital media. But online gaming, communicating on social media and reading rank as well.
Sometimes intake is passive, other times it's more interactive and for adults and children alike, it's often necessary for work and school in addition to entertainment.
This day and age you can sometimes find yourself overloaded by digital media and devices. The digital deluge can present many challenges for time management and healthy amounts of consumption and time spent on your digital devices. Whether it's a phone, television, gaming console or tablet. Researchers say there are ways to keep your use healthy, positive, and in check.
Stacie Capers, 36, of Columbia says she stays pretty busy caring for her three children and husband, running her household, and working full-time at the University of South Carolina.
"I like to kind of be in touch as much as I can," Capers said. "When I'm away from work if I can put my hands on work stuff there is nothing wrong with that for me."
Capers estimates, over time, her family has probably spent $3,000 for all of their devices. Because of how essential digital technology has become to everyday life, she says it's money well spent. Phones, tablets, laptops and game consoles are some of the devices she has in her home.
Researchers say so many options for screen time has only increased the amount of time we spend on digital devices. Many parents like Capers wander what's a healthy amount of time to spend engaged with your devices and what's excessive?
The American Academy of Pediatrics says children 0 to 2 should not be exposed to at all. For children 2 to 5 one hour a day is recommended. Beyond 5-years-old the AAP says it's up to parents to determine use and consumption and set guidelines.
Another area researchers look at involves how your interaction with digital technology affects your relationships among friends, spouses, or your children. Most evenings after school or time at grandma's house, Capers says her children, 3, 5, and 15, often ask for their tablets as soon as she picks them up. When they arrive home, Capers allows the children to use their devices to unwind and relax. The younger children often choose to play games, most of which are educational.
Experts say Capers is on the right track, but discipline and boundaries are key.
A recent study by the Center for Media and Human Development at Northwestern University and Common Sense Media suggests keeping kids on task when on their devices. Limit them to one screen and one activity at a time. Co-view or Co-play with your children. Ask your kids to show you what they're watching or playing. Also, establish media and device-free times and zones. At certain times of day or in certain parts of the house, tune out of the digital world and tune in to real life.
The AAP says screen time reduces talk time between parents and children by 85 percent. This has the potential to impede language and social development.
Capers' 15-year-old stepson is beginning to think about attending college or embarking on a career of a military service. As he continues to grow up, Capers says she stresses the importance of face-to-face interaction and communication.
"Tablets and these devices are a blessing and a curse," Capers said. "We want him to be able to communicate and to use his own voice and not hide behind a piece of equipment, a computer, a tablet."
Capers also acknowledges it can be easy to let devices babysit her children, but that's something she tries to avoid.
That's good advice, according to Dr. Tara Taylor, director of counseling and development at Benedict College.
"Devices are very important today, but they should not be used as a means of raising children." said Dr. Taylor.
Experts say parents also need to make sure they are setting a good example. While it's good to put the devices down sometimes you can also get creative and find a positive way to incorporate them into family time. Capers started a YouTube vlog with her family called, "Kickin It with the Capers."
"We capture our daily life, our outings, the fun that we have as a family," Capers said.
Experts say this is how to keep yours and your families relationships with digital devices healthy and productive.