How long should they be allowed to play?
When should they play?
Where should they play?
How do I control what they are doing?
These are all questions we get asked by parents regularly. There is no “black and white” answer because we all have different values and opinions regarding this.
Think about what children are not doing as a result of being on their devices – this is more the problem…..they are not playing at the park, not interacting with other children, have less time for creative play, less time for reading and drawing, less time for playing sport and simply less time for them to just be children. Creating the right balance is key.
The digital world plays a huge part of our everyday lives, it is here to stay and as such we have to embrace it for all it has to offer and teach our kids how to manage it appropriately. To deny our children the skill of being digitally adept would be remiss but to set no limits on how much time they spend doing so would be irresponsible. Having limits and boundaries on device use teaches children many life skills some of which being the ability to tolerate frustration, delay gratification and avoid the risks of addiction. Children need to learn to control their use of devices rather than let the devices control them.
What do we recommend?
Creating a set of Digital House Rules is an excellent place to start. Allow your children to have a part to play in the creation of these because when children have a say and feel they have been heard they are more likely to buy into whatever the solution might be. Have the family sit down and discuss the subject openly with them and create your own set of rules.
Ideas for Digital House Rules
- Set time limits on devices and TV viewing
- Get your kids to set a timer when playing, as the alarm then dictates shut down times not you
- Have a central charging station for all devices so that you control when devices are shut down for the evening
- No devices allowed in the bedrooms, even for homework
- All device use to take place in common spaces
- Do not use phones as alarm clocks
- No phones at the dinner table
- Set a device free afternoon or day
- Set parental controls if needed
- Agree to the logical consequences that will take effect if the rules are not applied
Role Modeling and Educating
Most of what children learn is role modeled from their parents, “monkey see, monkey do”! If we want our kids to be responsible, respectful and above all safe users then we have teach them how and role model this to them. How many times do we respond to text messages when we are with them, yet when our teenagers do the same we get upset?
Did you know that each time we are distracted by texts and emails it takes us 20 minutes to reconnect with our current environment. Dr Sherry Turkle quotes in her fascinating book “Home Alone” – “Parents are tantalizingly close but mentally elsewhere”
“My Mom is everywhere but nowhere” – a teenager’s quote from Madeline Levine’s book The Price of Privilege
In a world where so much time is spent online, in front of screens and on mobile devices, make sure you spend time with your children when you are all unplugged. Be there for your children, they need you and they need the unplugged version of you. They need connection not connectivity.
Old habits can die hard and where possible, implementing good digital habits at a young age will help your children become respectful, responsible and safe users. However, it is never too late to adopt new strategies to overcome the challenges that living in the digital world presents.
If you have any ideas regarding this, I would love to hear from you.
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Have a great week.