Being a parent is probably one of the hardest jobs in the world. You need to put the overall well-being of your kids before everything else while still adjusting your priorities. To do this, a lot of parents take the assistance of technology. While avoiding smart devices from our kids is impossible, their overuse might backfire in the long run.
Whenever I babysit my niece, she insists on watching TV or playing her favorite game on my phone – all the time. This got me thinking that just like her there must be millions of children addicted to technology. After a quick Google search, I realized how serious the issue can be. Did you know that on an average, children of age 9 or below spend around 2 hours a day on a screen? This is something that can tamper with the development of their speech, intellect, and psychology.
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I know, being a parent is a tough job and you can’t keep your kids away from technology altogether. Nevertheless, you can take some precautionary measures that can regulate the amount of time they spend on tabs or phones. Digital detox is important at every age, but when it comes to kids – it should be your numero uno priority. Here’s how you can be sure that your kids won’t get addicted to technology at such an early age.
- Educate yourself (and your partner)
In order to understand how serious the situation is and determine whether your little ones are addicted to technology, you need to educate yourself. To start with, you need to identify the medium that your kids use the most. While some kids like to play games on smartphones, others spend hours watching their favorite cartoons on television. YouTube addiction is also a thing as a lot of kids these days refuse to eat without watching certain videos.
Out of all the children addicted to technology, the age group of below 9 has been affected the most. In 2011, they had an average daily screen time of just 15 minutes. As of now, it has been increased to 2 hours. It might surprise you, but even kids of age 2 these days spend more than 30 minutes a day watching either TV or a smart device.
After educating yourself, teach your spouse the same and identify whether your child is being addicted to technology or not. Have a thoughtful discussion and come up with a plan of action together.
- Set strict time limits
This is the most important step for digital detoxification. You need to make sure that your kids won’t spend a lot of time watching a digital screen. It can directly impact their eyes and even affect the development of their intellect.
Firstly, note how much screen time your kids can access presently. Afterward, start decreasing it gradually. If you will simply take away their privileges out of the blue, then they might throw tantrums and can stay frustrated for a while. It is important to gradually cut their screen time on a weekly or daily basis.
While leading experts have different opinions about it, kids of age 3 or less should not be exposed to technology (TV/smartphones/video games, etc.) at all. Since we can’t avoid it altogether, you can limit a screen time of 30 minutes a day for kids of age 4-9. This can be increased to a total of 1 hour daily for kids older than 10 years. Just make sure that this limit includes the total time they spend on all the related devices like iPads, tabs, phones, TV, gaming consoles, and so on.
Some parents give an extra 30 minutes or even an hour on the weekends or during the holiday season. Needless to say, the time is only limited to their recreational activities. If they are using a computer for educational purpose or are watching an informative documentary, then you should not count it as their screen time.
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- Use parental control apps and tools
Keeping an eye on your kids 24×7 is an impossible task. While you can easily control their screen time at an early age of 3 or 4, it gets tough as they grow up. For instance, if they are older than 10, then you just can’t be with them all day long and control their digital habits. In this case, you can take the assistance of parental control apps and tools.
Both, Android and iOS devices have native child lock features that you can use. The latest version of iOS 12 has come up with dedicated parental control and restriction options as well. You can block any app, set screen limits, and control the way your kids use a smartphone. Besides that, there are numerous third-party Android and iOS apps that can help you do the same.
Furthermore, you can set parental control on smart televisions and gaming consoles as well. In this way, you can be sure that your kids only access these devices for a restricted period, even if you are not around.
- Encourage them to play outside
I remember when I was a kid I used to rush to a nearby park almost every evening to play with my friends. In fact, those were some of my favorite childhood memories. As a parent, you should also encourage your kids to go out and spend some time with their friends. It is of utmost importance for kids to have an active lifestyle. It helps them in their physical growth and even teaches them so many real-life things.
Instead of spending hours playing a video game, your little one should be making friends outdoors. Even if your locality does not have kids of the same age, you should take your kids out on your own. You can help them ride a bike, skate, and do so many other things. You can also encourage them to be friends with other like-minded kids of their age as well. This will help them a lot in the long run and they would prefer it instead of playing video games.
- Teach them about their priorities
It has been observed that most of the children addicted to technology miss their homework and don’t spend a lot of time with their family members. This is exactly when a parent needs to interrupt.
If your kids spend too much time playing video games or watching television, then have a conversation with them. Make them understand that it is important for them to do their homework first. Also, they should not miss out on their sleep on any other important activity just to have more screen time.
Apart from homework and sleep, make them understand that spending time with family is also important. They should not be spending time on their smartphone while having dinner or any other important family meeting. At such a young age, it can be tough for kids to understand the importance of family. As a parent, it is your responsibility to help your kids prioritize things. Just because they are allowed to play video games or watch cartoons, it doesn’t mean that they should miss their homework, food, or sleep for it.
- Set a positive example
Most importantly, you need to set a positive example for your kids. As a parent, you might already know that your kids look up to you and learn most of the things at home. A lot of kids who are addicted to technology have admitted that they have taken that habit from their parents. As they see their mom or dad spending hours on their laptops and smartphones, they mirror the same behavior.
While your work must be important, try not to take it home with you all the time. Instead of spending time on your phone, spend time with your kids. Teach them that things like smartphones and tabs are not that important and should only be used occasionally. Have an open door policy in your home so that your kids can come and talk to you anytime they want. It might not be the easiest thing to do, but if you really want your kids to learn from you, then you need to set a positive example for them.
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Digital addiction is probably one of the most widespread and unnoticed things among our kids these days. If left unrestricted, it can lead to social media addiction, gaming addiction, or the over-dependency on technology. It can also make your kids more sedentary and affect their overall lifestyle. Not just their physical growth, it can tamper with their mental well-being too.
If you want to be a thoughtful parent and create a nurturing space for your kids, then start by regulating their screen time. Try to follow the above-mentioned suggestions and feel free to have a conversation with other parents as well. You can always learn from their experiences and implement their suggestions too. If you want, you can also consult a specialist to get personalized assistance on this issue. It might be a tough pill to swallow for your kids, but it will certainly help them in the long run.
Featured image source: Pixabay, under Creative Commons License