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When I think about my childhood, the first image that comes to mind is the sun.

From the moment I was dropped off by the school bus, it was a sprint to change out of my school clothes and get back outdoors to meet up with other neighborhood kids. We played every sport possible, explored our subdivision while riding our bikes, or went on adventures in wooded areas by our houses. Granted, there were no smartphones, tablets or Wi-Fi, but the idea of spending hours playing video games on a beautiful day just wasn’t all that exciting for most of us.

Times have changed. Most children just don’t have the freedom that many of us had. It seems like danger lurks behind every tree and in every strange car driving down the street. But is that the only reason you don’t find kids swarming all over your neighborhood regularly? Or is it the advances in technology that are calling to our children?

According to a 2010 Kaiser Foundation study, elementary-age children are exposed to entertainment technology — TV, Internet, video games — a whopping 7.5 hours daily. Let that sink in a moment. Almost a third of every day is spent in front of a TV, computer, tablet or smartphone.

That number rises to almost 12 hours for children ages 11 – 14. According to this same study, 75 percent of these children have TVs in their room, and nearly half of the households surveyed claimed the TV was on in their house all day.

Gone are the days of pick-up football or playing cops and robbers. There’s now an app for that. A more recent 2015 study completed by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association showed that 68 percent of 2-year-olds knew how to navigate through a tablet. This same study stated that 24 percent of these same toddlers used technology at the dinner table. That number doubled to 45 percent by age 8. Overuse of technology has been cited in the increase in obesity in our children. It limits sensory and motor development, literacy, and affects overall behavior. It also slows down social maturity.

As parents, we are just as addicted. We can’t go anywhere without our cell phones, and there is usually a laptop or tablet in our laps while we watch TV. Technology is a fascinating thing, and the younger generations can do things with it that we can only dream of.

We can’t let our kids lose sight of the real world. We must remind them of what a tree looks like and the feel of the wind. We must put down our phones long enough to have a conversation with them at the dinner table about something other than the latest viral video or game.

Nobody will remember that time at family dinner when everyone was sitting there watching Netflix. It’s time to start creating memories again.

Then post them on Instagram. Or not.

Talk to Victor

Victor Alfieri is an avid music fan who has three children with his wife, Stephanie. Connect at Facebook.com/VJAlfieri and @VictorWordkrpht.

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