As a psychologist I am often asked to comment on the use of technology by children. The use of smart phones, I pad, tablets, laptops to play games, surf the internet, watch movies, watch you tube is increasing every day. Children as young as 3 years old can operate and navigate the phones and I pads easily. The use of social media among all groups is on the rise.
What are some effective ways to limit the use of technology in children’s lives?
1. Model the behavior you want the child to follow. If the parent is on the phone or computer most of the time, the chances are that children will follow suit. Limiting the time adults use technology will help set up the house rules
2. Set up house rules, for example, home work to be completed before switching on the game, shut off the video games, at least an hour before bed time at night. No phones, I pads, computers, games at the dinner table. Maybe only an hour of screen time during school days and 1-2 hours on the weekend. Older children may have more screen time, depending upon the need.
3. Be consistent in enforcing the rules. However, being flexible is also helpful. For example, the parent can say “ you can have extra screen time today as tomorrow is a holiday’. Praise desired behavior. Please be specific with the praise, for example, “I really liked it that you put away the game when it was time’. Encourage self discipline especially in older children.
4. Provide alternatives to children. Sport activities, reading, hobbies, playing outside with friends, riding a bike in the summer are all healthy behaviors. Encourage the use of imaginative play.
5. Use effective discipline. Using logical consequence is helpful. Logical consequence follows the behavior you want to discipline. For example, if the child is arguing, misbehaving while using video games then take away the video game, not ice cream for dessert. Most often a 24 hour ‘no video game rule is effective.
6. Be consistent and follow through with the consequence. Often times parents will threaten with consequences , children learn that they can tune out the parent.
7. Do monitor the use of social media. Talk to the children about the dangers on the internet, use of photos, cyber bullying. Be aware of the new technologies, new apps , new terms being used by the children.
It’s important to remember that parents are in charge. Children appreciate structure and discipline, though they may push back at times.