Is your child often glued to his/her digital device till the wee hours of the morning? Do you have frequent arguments with your child about acceptable screen time?
Caring for a child with excessive device use can be difficult and trying for parents. This is especially so when you know that your child’s excessive device use is starting to throw his/her life off-balance. There are times your child seems to be so focused on the device that basic hygiene, nutrition and sleep cycle are being negatively affected. As a parent, you constantly fear that your child’s device use may get more excessive and worry about the long-term impact of your child’s unhealthy device use. But the good news is that you can do something about it, sooner than later.
We are familiar with the saying ‘Prevention is better than cure’. Likewise, it is easier to prevent an addiction than to intervene after it becomes an issue. TOUCH Parenting shares some tips to help parents manage their children’s screen time and prevent issues of excessive device use.
BE INVOLVED AND COMMUNICATE
Have open and ongoing discussions about responsible use of technology with your children, and encourage them to reflect on the pros and cons of their tech usage, as well as how it affects them and others. To foster stronger engagement and facilitate your children to open up, refrain from embarrassing, blaming or judging them for their choices. You may want to find a good time to have this conversation with your children. Avoid such conversations when you’ve had a bad day at work or when your children are in the midst of their game or video.
You can also consider learning how to play games that your children enjoy and use gaming to bond with them. This could be a good opportunity for parent-child communication which would help you better understand your children’s perspective on the online world.
HELP YOUR CHILD DEVELOP OTHER COPING STRATEGIES
While screen time is an easy way to help children to cope with life’s stressors, it is, in the long run, important to balance screen time with other healthy activities to develop other coping mechanisms. If your children are meeting all their psychological needs through screen time or using screen time to keep negative thoughts and emotions at bay, removing screen time completely could be counterproductive.
One way to work around this is to build enjoyable alternative activities such as exercise into their schedules gradually. Through exercise, your children can boost their feel-good hormones naturally while maintaining a level of physical development. If your children are meeting all their social needs through their devices, it may be helpful to encourage them to hang out with their peers in real life.
Lastly, encouraging them to pursue something else they are good at may help them divert their focus. That may lead to them spending less time on their devices.
SET GROUND RULES AND LIMITS
As a preventive measure, having a mutual agreement with your children on device use is very important. It helps to set limits and boundaries for how long your children can go online, what they do online, and where they should use the electronic devices. It is always good to keep the computers and mobile phones in the common area so that you can monitor their activities. Parents may consider prohibiting the use of any devices at mealtimes or a certain number of hours before bedtime. This encourages family bonding during meals and a healthier sleep pattern. Parents should also remember to adhere to those rules and set a consistent example for their children to model after.
Rules are collaboratively developed. For children to better achieve desired behaviors, the firm boundaries and rules should be consistently enforced. When screen problems escalate, so should the level of restrictions and limits imposed. This can come in the form of apps that monitor or control screen time. Parents will need to be prepared for strong negative reactions from their children when intervening in a stronger fashion and applying stricter limits.
LOVE ALWAYS PREVAILS
It is also important to note that when children’s device use becomes excessive and detrimental, attempts to restrict them too much might result in more harm than good. This may result in increased resentment, frustration and conflicts at home. While it is important to manage screen time, remember to put the relationships with your children and other family members into perspective: they are more important and enduring than screen time, housework, homework and the meeting of expectations set. The patient and persistent care and concern of parents for their children will bear fruit eventually.
WEIGHING OUT OPTIONS TOGETHER
While some parents may want their children to seek help, it is important for their children to first acknowledge that their device use has become an issue and personally want a change. Instead of berating them or speaking to them in a judgemental tone, it is important for parents to show their children that they care by analysing the issue with them, weighing out options together and identifying alternative solutions with them.
Have any questions on parenting in the digital age or want to find out more about our evidence-based parenting programmes? Contact TOUCH Parenting at [email protected] today!
TOUCH Parenting aims to strengthen parent-child relationships by providing parents with relevant parenting resources through every stage of their parenting journey. It conducts informative talks and workshops which empower parents with knowledge on preparing for and raising a new-born, navigating the digital age with their child, parent-child communication, and nurturing resilient children and youths. It is also appointed by the Ministry of Social and Family Development as the Parent Support Provider (PSP) for Primary and Secondary schools in Singapore.