Sumi Kim on shifting your kids’ attention from screens to the real world.
Question: My children spend a lot of time on screens. How can I encourage them to be more present in their lives and during our family time?
Answer: Begin by observing your own habits around screens. Are you modeling what you wish to see for your children? Realizing I was a screen junkie, I now put my devices away when my children are around.
Next, examine how present you are with your kids: you can be there in body, but far off in thought. Children feel nourished by the full attention of a parent. During mealtimes, I practice listening with full attention, and when it’s quiet, cultivating a kindhearted presence. A daily meditation practice expands and deepens your capacity for presence with others.
Help your children observe how narrow their world becomes with screen use—just the eyes, fingers, and brain, laser-focused on a small rectangle.
Most Buddhist centers are structured around a shared schedule and set of rules to create communal harmony and to train students. Likewise, a family is a community that needs the same support system. In our family, no screens are allowed at mealtime, and we set limits on device time.
Screen time has long-term implications for your child’s social, emotional, and spiritual health. As a Buddhist chaplain living on a university campus, I see firsthand that emerging adults are dysregulated with screen use, to the point where devices impede meaningful social interactions and foster escapism from facing one’s issues.
Buddhist practice directs us to pull ourselves out of the trance of thinking and into reality. Today, we must find our way not only out of the distortions of our mind but also of the alternate reality of the online world. Help your children observe how narrow their world becomes with screen use—just the eyes, fingers, and brain, laser-focused on a small rectangle. Then, take them for a walk. Which senses are engaged now? What is the range and depth of this experience? The contrast supports children in observing the process of waking up, of moving from an attenuated, disconnected experience to a full, open, and connected awareness of life around them.