The Electronic Free Zone

As a child psychologist, I am encountering more questions about electronics every day.

“Is my child addicted to electronics?”

“Do electronics harm kids?”

“Do they cause ADHD?”

I recently took a family vacation to the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington. Not only was it a beautiful trip but a wonderful thing happened there. We had no cell phone service! We had no email! We had no video game system or Ipad with us!

The question I have not been asked is: “Do my own electronics harm my relationship with my kids?”
Without the technology constantly texting, checking emails, watching TV, watching my kids play video games or games on their devices, we needed something to do. Instead of sitting at the pool watching my kids play while I checked emails, I played in the pool too. Instead of watching something worthless on TV at night, we played family games. Instead of sitting inside on a beautiful day, we went hiking, sailing, and running.

We were able to reconnect as a family.

Lessons learned:

1) Don’t ever let TV and electronics be a substitute for the quality time you can spend with your kids.

2) Take out a good old fashioned board game. They are really fun!

3) My kids discovered that books are actually pretty good if they don’t have games to play.

4) Have time that is electronic free time every day not only for your kids but model it as parent.

5) Ask yourself what would happen if you actually stepped off the grid of electronics for a bit and what else you could be doing with your time?

6) My exercise was improved when I did not listen to music, watch a TV screen at my club, or stop and check a text or email.

People with cell phones are more available than ER doctors. We respond to texts and facebook posts at dinner with friends, when we are reading a story with our kids, and even when we are driving a car!

Take some time each day to spend quality time with your kids and detox from electronics. There are so many fun things to do without them getting in our way.

How Therapy Dogs Help Children with Reading

Did you know that dogs can help your child both improve their reading skills and learn to love reading in the process? If your child struggles with reading, consider tutoring with a terrier!

Just ask the kids at B.F. Kitchen Elementary School in Loveland; they’ve been reading to Copper, a golden retriever, since 2011, thanks to the school’s Reading Retriever program — and the results speak for themselves.

This specially trained dog works one-on-one with struggling young readers, providing a supportive, friendly reading buddy who never, ever judges a mispronounced word or run-on sentence. Kids say that having Copper around lifts their spirits, making them feel more confident and excited to read — and results from other schools, libraries and tutoring programs with therapy dogs back this up.

In fact, a study from Tufts University suggests that reading with dogs offers a host of academic, social, physiological and psychological benefits for children, such as:

  • Higher self-esteem and autonomy
  • Reduced stress and lower blood pressure
  • Increased language use
  • Improved social interactions
  • Longer, more sustained focus
  • Better attitude toward school and learning
  • Reduced loss of reading skill over summer vacation
  • Improved reading ability

Libraries, schools and even universities across the country are taking advantage of the benefits of therapy dogs. In Colorado, programs that incorporate reading and therapy dogs are growing more popular, with organizations such as Denver’s Therapy Dogs of Boulder County, Denver Pet Partners, Have Paws Will Travel in Arapahoe County, Aurora’s Wagging Tales, and Paws to Read in Colorado Springs. Even reading to a family pet can help struggling readers to improve their skills and feel more confident.

Reading ability impacts all areas of academic achievement, so building your child’s confidence and skill is essential. Sometimes, a little extra help — from a therapy dog or a professional — can make all the difference. If you’re seeking a child psychologist in the Littleton area, Dr. Steven Lazarus — and his certified therapy dog Zeke — can help your family work through issues together.