Electronic devices have officially invaded our lives and are not going to leave any time soon. Mobile phones, iPads, computers and televisions are with us everywhere we go. Recommendations allow a maximum of 2 hours digital screen time for kids aged 2 years old and under. By 2014, studies have shown that children’s favourite toys are now electronic devices. Half of the kids’ population are spending more than 4 hours per day in front of an electronic device for recreation.
Electronic devices such as tablets and laptops are essential at school for academic learning. However, this should not be a reason to allow your kids extended usage time with these devices. They may be spending all that time on visiting websites or playing games that are useless. Educational media technology supporters call these activities as “empty calories.” Just like junk food, kids can get addicted to this stuff unless parents set limits not just content, but also time.
There are a number of tricks to break the electronic habits of kids.
- Create a public space at home for accessing personal computers, laptops and tablets. This is a way of limiting their alone time where kids are free to surf internet websites and play games. If they are around the whole family, they will be more mindful on what websites and games they access. Smaller electronic devices such as mobile phones will have to be off-limits for younger kids in pre-school. You will have to decide when to buy your grade-schooler a personal phone.
- Password-protect your personal devices. Children should know how to ask for permission. Furthermore, you will know when and how much time your child is spending on screen time if you know when they are using your mobile. Setting up passwords for websites on the family computer or laptop is also useful so your kids can not access your credit card to buy freebies for their online games.
- Set schedules and transition time. Introduce your kids to a NO PHONES rule on the table during meals. Remind them when dinner time is and tell them in advance if they already need to put the device away. Example, 10 minutes to dinner time and your kid is still playing. Be their personal alarm clock and let them know their time is almost up. Forcing a child to put away their games on the dot will cause tantrums which can become a bad habit in the future.
- Create a diversion. Studies show that bored kids are the most likely to be addicted in online games and devices. Create a fun-filled schedule for your kid throughout the day. Make time for online recreation and make more time for outside activities like sports. There is nothing better than strengthening your child’s interpersonal skills.
- In order for your kids to listen to you, you must be a role model in everything you teach them. It is sometimes inevitable to bring work at home, especially on busy client seasons. However, do not allow your children to see how much you spend on your own computer and mobile devices. Make sure to follow your NO PHONE rule during meals.
- Some parents are guilty of using mobile devices as pacifiers to keep their kids from disturbing them. When kids cry or they persistently bother you for something irrelevant, letting them play games on your phone will instantly divert their attention. This is a bad habit that parents need to break. Find other ways to keep your kids from nagging you. Most of the time, you just need to be patient until their tantrums go away.
- If all else fails, you just have to remind your children once again that you are the boss. You are the adult in the house and most of all, you are their parent. They cannot do anything if you take away the device they are playing. In time they will understand that it is for their own good.
Gradual transitions and diversion tactics such as sports and other fun outdoor activities are just some of the ways to take your kids off those electronic gadgets. Parental involvement on their children’s onscreen activities is an opportunity to bond and learn with them. Developing healthy electronic usage habits for the family will lead to good media relationship.