With Christmas just behind us, the number of electronic devices in many homes will have risen dramatically and with that comes parental responsibility to limit use to a safe level.
Whether as parents we like it or not, we live in an online generation where tablets and devices are part of life’s ‘uniform’ for our children but the challenges this brings should not be ignored. Studies have revealed that by the time a child reaches 7 years of age they will have spent, on average, a whole year of his or her life in front of a screen.
The charity, Action for Children, recently conducted research into this area and found that parents are struggling to ‘unplug’ their children from the digital world, finding it easier to get their offspring to eat healthily or do homework than to adhere to timing limits on device usage.
On the other hand denying access can lead to addiction like behaviour where necessary functions like eating or sleeping are replaced by the want to be ‘online’.
In this constant battle between kids and technology, what are the key factors to consider when allowing your child time on their new favourite gadgets?
- Pay attention to how much screen time your child has and whether this is interfering with ‘normal’ life.
- Consider whether your child is using screen time to escape an underlying issue.
- Set boundaries and most importantly, a time schedule. Setting workable limits on screen time means that periods gaming, browsing the web, interacting on social media or watching TV are done so consciously and with enjoyment before turning off to focus attention on something else.
This also instils a degree of social etiquette, knowing when it is acceptable to pull out your tablet and ignore the rest of the world is a life skill that every child should know!
- Organise other activities for you and your family away from screens and devices to create a balance of life with and without technology.
- ‘Practice what you preach’. Let your children see you taking time away from your smart phone or tablet. Young people still learn by example.
Technology, the internet, gaming and smart devices are the ‘norm’ to our children and will be to our children’s children but it is important to balance this with life from way back when, when the outdoors was a child’s online platform of choice and it is up to parents to lead the way.