Strategies to break screen addiction

There are strategies to break screen addiction
There are ways to reduce time spent on screens

Like it or not, technology is an important part of our modern world, and is here to stay. Instead of just focusing  on how much time a child spends on digital media, parents should consider the content of that media and the context in which they’re using it. Age appropriate time guidelines and  activities can enhance children’s learning without jeopardizing their health and relationships.
Check out the strategies to break screen addiction below. There are ways to overcome the reliance on technology, and restore harmony in the home.

1.  Technology is a vehicle for content. That content can be powerful, creative and educational, or it can be mindless, inappropriate and distracting.
It is important that all children and young people learn to be creators of content, rather than passive users. If you as a parent have provided the device, and your child is spending valuable time using it – make it quality, educational time. Check the Resources page for great ideas!

2.  Teach kids about achieving balance in their lives. Depending on the age of the children, it can be helpful to explain the concept of balance. In the same way we balance small servings of dessert with larger portions of healthy food, we also need to balance the “empty calories” of mindless screen time with face-to-face conversations, physical activity and time spent outdoors. A Family Technology Audit is important so that all members of the family have input into decisions made about technology use.

3.  Start setting limits early. Children’s addiction to screens can start at a very young age. Research suggests that by the age of 5 children can be reliant on screens for entertainment. The World Health Organisation recommends that between the ages of two and five, children should spend no more than an hour a day in front of a screen, and children under the age of two shouldn’t engage in sedentary screen time at all. These recommendations are broadly about physical activity and sleep for children under five years old, and are an attempt to create healthy habits during a critical developmental window. Part of our role as parents is to set clear limitations and boundaries. The same applies to technology limitations so, being clear and consistent about the consequences for your child if they do not stick to these rules is paramount. Check the Resources page for screen time posters and agreements.

4. Ask your child to explain why they want to use screens. Get your child in the habit of explaining why they want to be in front of a screen or online. It’s a great way to get them thinking about their own digital habits and balancing screen time with other activities.

5. Protect bedtime. Studies show that using digital media at night can interfere with sleep quality.  Restrict the use of phones, tablets and computers for at least 30 minutes before bed. Have a policy that for young children means no devices allowed in bedrooms, and for older kids  all devices are turned off and set to charge in a secure central location at bedtime.

6.  Develop good habits while they are young. Children are happiest when their world includes some degree of structure and predictability. It is important, then, to form consistent screen-time habits that include periods away from their devices. For example, it is easiest to teach kids to discuss their days at the dinner table when they have learned from a young age that no one uses their phones or watches television during dinner. Children respond well to routines, so you might introduce a rule whereby younger children don’t use devices after 5pm.

7.  Let them be bored. Kids hate being bored but it is important they learn to entertain themselves, can think creatively and develop communication skills with other people. Phones can be richly entertaining and are almost always available, making boredom all but extinct. As soon as phones enter kids’ lives, they get pulled out at the first twinge of boredom. These devices are portable, so children know they can access them everywhere. But they shouldn’t be used as a crutch for every idle moment.

8.  Foster real-life friendships. Some kids who find it difficult to connect with peers spend more time online than playing with friends in real life. But digital friendships aren’t a replacement for the real thing. Help your child develop social skills and nurture his or her real-life relationships.

9.  Lead by example. If your children always see you with a phone in your hand, constantly checking social media, sending and receiving messages etc, they soon learn that these bright shiny devices must be interesting and important. It’s also harder to enforce restrictions on the use of devices when you are clearly addicted as well!

10. Use tech tools to help manage access. There are robust products and device functions which allow you to see which apps are being used in your home and for how long. But try not to use these tools to secretly monitor your child. Instead, be open about the process and check the whole family’s usage, including your own. Start with Google Family Link for Android devices or Parental Controls and Screen Time for iPhone/iPad.

11. Remember – It can be easy to focus only on the clock and how long your child is spending in front of the screen, but the quality and nature of what they are doing online, and your involvement are just as important. Spend time online with them, see what they are doing (particularly for younger children), and guide them. For older kids, don’t be afraid to check the computer’s History if you are worried.

Lead by example.