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5 ways your child can develop a positive relationship with screen time

It is true, we are all tired.

On top of singing, dance, swimming classes and school homework, we now have to manage our child’s screen time.

Just when you think you can relax, sip a cup of tea and scroll through your phone at the end of a long day- along comes the little one asking for another minute of Youtube video or games.

Then you start thinking if this is how all parents feel. How do they manage it all?

Well, let me give you a secret : 

Not all moms are obsessed about screen time. In fact, some are very relaxed about it and enjoy this new way of parenting.

 

You can be like this too. And this is what your new year resolution is going to be.

In this blog post we will discover :

  • The number one question moms of 8-13 years old kids constantly ask about their child’s device use AND why this question is not going anywhere. 
  • The 3 most terrible advice moms are getting that is stopping their child from having a balanced digital use. 
  • The 4 steps to help your kids have a balanced online & offline life  you can start adopting today- Yes, it starts today. 
  • 2 reasons why it can take longer for some children to balance their digital media use. 

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Now, let’s start

You are worried about how much screen time should your child get. You want them to exploit the opportunities of the online world, that is your goal! But you do not know where to begin.

As first generation parents who are raising kids in the digital age and NOT having being raised with devices, we find it hard to know if we are giving our child too much screen time.

We are still discovering the screen time dilemma and we want to make sure we are not hampering our child’s brain development with too much screen access.

The truth is, this is a common problem faced by many moms.  

You are not alone in this and I am here to help you solve this problem.

I have adopted a system for teaching children how to have a healthy amount of time online. I am going to show you exactly how that works.

But first, let’s talk about the bigger problem which is…

3 worst advice of screen time that is out there :

 

Bad Advice Number One: “Unplug that kid and get her offline!”

I am sure you have heard of this advice before. The one thing parents fail to realise is that technology is here to stay. It is not going anywhere. Getting your kids offline will not help them have a healthy relationship with technology.

Even though this advice is well-meaning, it’s misguided. It is assuming that by keeping kids offline, everything will be great.

What about your kids’ friends that are plugged in and start showing them stuff they are not supposed to see. How do you think your child will respond to that? Out of curiosity, they will watch it and not be prepared for the online world.

This advice can be dangerous and actually does the opposite of what you aim to achieve, that is a balanced online and offline world.

For right now, even though you might not subscribe to the “Get offline!” rule, you have probably heard it enough number of times that might make you feel guilty about your child’s screen time use. This is exactly what will stop you from helping your child get to a GOOD place of the internet.

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Bad Advice Number 2: “Use a monitoring app! period!”

This is another bad advice, where parents rely solely on monitoring apps to parent their child.

Let’s look at how this can be bad.

Let’s say you have set the screen time limit for 30 minutes a day. What happens if your child is using that time to learn to code, write a blog post, reading the news, doing homework, or playing on some spelling and grammar app?

Then the warning sign of “Times Up” pops up on your child’s device and the internet is switched off.

You would have deprived your child of an educational session they were doing online.  And the next thing you know you find yourself negotiating with your child for extra screen time.

While monitoring apps can be good guidance of screen limit, they do not know your child as you do. 

Understand what your child is doing online then decide on the time limit appropriately. Not all screen time is the same. Playing 30 minutes on Fortnite is different than half an hour spent learning to code.

Also,  don’t rely on monitoring apps to do the balancing of screen time, cause your child will grow up being dependent on it. In fact, teach your child when to stay enough to the internet.

.

Bad Advice Number 3: “It’s the apps fault!”‘

There is no such thing as the perfectly ‘safe’ app. All apps come with its own risk. Some of the risks can be higher than others. For instance, some apps can expose your child to porn while another app allows photos to disappear but can always be screenshot and kept by another person.

There is a faulty logic of thinking that by getting your child away from the dangerous apps, everything will be fine.

The important things to note is that :

  • Instagram, Snapchat, Fortnite – each app has the potential to be a “Bad App.” 
  • The apps evolve very fast which makes it hard for parents to keep up with everything that is in it
  • And because no one is born having the skills to be smart online- these skills need to be taught
  • Do not focus on the apps alone, focus on the emotional and safety skills needed to work around those apps.
  • Do not just Ban the “Bad Apps”, but teach your kids the skills needed in case they come across any similar bad features in another online situation

The underlying problem all this bad advice is that it makes you technology fearful instead of embracing technology. This is why you feel technology is exhausting and overwhelming.

The problem with that is that you don’t end up teaching your child…

…How to have the skills of balancing their own screen time and choosing the right screen time wisely.

 

 

Here are 5 ways to help your child have a healthy relationship with screen time:

Step 1 : Be curious and not judgy about your child’s media use.

The first step is to understand what your child is interested in. Your child might first say Fortnite, and she loves to watch cooking shows and read some blogs. 

Let your child do the talking. If you’re judging from the second she said Fortnite, you will miss out on her other interests.

Be patient in trying to understand your child’s interest. In 2019 do something your child likes to do. For instance, if your child likes to do the floss dance then start playing Fortnite. If your child in on Snapchat then download the app and start using it.

Your child will respond to your concerns better if they know that you have experienced some of the issues yourself.

Step 2: Integrate tech into everyday life.

Next, you will integrate technology into your family’s daily routine. This means your child can choose some online things to do and some offline things to do.

it’s actually that easy!

You and your child will do some of these things together or with other family members. For instance, pick a show on Netflix, or play an Xbox game. Having a moment together is the best way to take advantage of teachable moments that come up during the show or game.

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Step 3 : Take baby steps toward privacy

Talk to your child about online privacy. The easiest steps are to remind them :

  • Switch off location services on the phone
  • Change the password frequently
  • Turn off your Echo mic at home

Step 4 : Moving from offline and online

You are going to help your kids switch from online and offline activities.

Let her pick her next activity, as remember we discussed earlier having her choose the type of activities she is interested in.

You can set a timer next to her so she gets reminded when to switch off from the online activities. This now brings out to our next point which is…

Step 5 : Help kids manage screen time themselves

It is hard for children to manage their devices for two reasons. One, they are not great at self-regulating yet. Second, games and apps are designed to hook them up for the longest possible time.

The path to helping them manage their time will not be smooth sailing. But remember, your ultimate goal is to help them find the right balance.

Use screen time settings and parental controls initially to help them gain the skills needed to draw limits. Sometimes it is ok to be blunt and tell them to switch off the internet.

But over time support, encourage and guide them to do it themselves and they will eventually get there.

Warning: Roadblocks ahead

While I have shared with you some great tips, however, it might not work for all kids. Some children are fast at learning while few others may take forever to grasp the understanding of time management.

I tried the tips above with my own nephew. Here are some of the challenges faced :

  • My nephew loves his games. Once he starts playing a game he does not want to stop.
  • He has a very addictive nature. When he loves cars all he wanted to do was play with his cars. When it was a bike all he wanted was his bike and now all he wants is video games.
  • He was also very young when I tried to get him to manage his own screen time, only five years old.

But when he turned 7 we had a good breakthrough with him. He could switch off the screen without being reminded to do so. He would also let us know how many minutes he has spent on his device.

This did take a little time, but that is because he was too young for me to fully expect him to be independent. The first 4 steps were always enforced in our home and gradually we can move to step 5.

Some days this can be exhausting and emotionally taxing but the part you need to remember the most is :

  • You are not alone in this
  • You can achieve this
  • There is light at the end of the tunnel.

 

Here are other tips to keep children safe in the digital age : 

Tips for Non-Tech Savy Mums: 4 tips to digital parenting for non-tech savy mums

List of online activities for your children: Fun online stuff your kids can do – Education + creative

3 dangerous places for children to be online : 3 places kids should have limited internet access

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