Getting your tween to turn off the gadgets is probably a daily tussle. Gadgets take pride of place in all of our homes, for adults and youngsters alike. It connects us to others, entertains us and teaches us new things. It’s easier than ever to deal with a whiny, clingy kid in a mall/restaurant or resolve the “I’m bored” situation. It has made online education possible during the pandemic and has saved lives in many situations. Whether it’s work-from-home challenges for parents or a companion for youngsters, especially during those lonely days of confinement.
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Screens are used as “rewards” for getting ready quickly, eating vegetables, completing homework, etc. What begins as an encouraging activity of five to ten minutes is difficult to comprehend. switch off. The exciting nature of gadgets releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that makes people associate screens with pleasure. This creates a feeling of wanting more and naturally the need to spend more time with the device. There are several other factors that contribute to keeping us glued to our screens, but that will be the subject of a later article.
When kids use devices, it’s usually a solitary, sedentary activity, where they don’t interact with “real” friends and family, learn, or enjoy the outdoors. This could contribute to obesity, shorter concentration times, isolation and sleep problems. While some parents resort to drastic measures such as cutting off the internet or removing all devices at home, here are some ways to balance your child’s screen time by remembering 3 Ms – Manage, model and Significant.
Manage: create boundaries
The boundaries provide clear guidelines for you and young people, leaving minimal room for ambiguity and abuse. Sit down with your child and list screen time borders. These include:
When – Decide when and when gadgets can be used. For example, after finishing lunch/dinner; when the studies are finished and the tasks for the next day are planned; Sunday morning, etc. You can also add when it won’t be allowed, maybe in the morning before you leave for school, maybe.
It would be better if you also decide to total screen time for weekdays and weekends. This must be respected in all circumstances by everyone in the house.
Where – Decide where your child can use gadgets and where they cannot. For example, they can watch in the family room/TV and bedroom during the day. Places where they are not allowed may include the dining room, bathroom, bedroom at night, and restaurants.
What – Define what they should be allowed to do with a device. Keeping track of what they watch and do on their devices is essential. Examine the games they play – is it too violent? Look at the content they are
watching and reading – is it age appropriate? If they’re on social media, talk about etiquette and online safetyand have an open line of communication with them.
Once you have set these limits, you must be consistent on a daily basis and respect what has been agreed. This will reduce friction and outbursts between you and your child.
Model: Balanced Screen Behavior
Your child watches and learns from you, so review your own use of the gadget. As a parent, you are a huge influence on your child and can help them balance their real and screen time by doing it yourself. If you’re glued to your phone or tablet, you’re modeling behavior that’s the opposite of what you want in your child. Remember that your child will follow the guidelines if they see you as a parent following similar boundaries. It should be mentioned that children in such situations also feel ignored by their parents.
Create a “screen-free” zone in your home. This could be during meals when you eat together or set aside 30-60 minutes for family time, to read, exercise, play board games or just relax together, where all your devices are left outside, including yours. It’s a fantastic way to connect and develop family bonds.
Significant: Putting a positive spin on screen time
With global information at your fingertips, the device is a powerful source of knowledge and information. Encourage your child to watch programs on nature, science, history, etc. Help your tween choose channels and shows appropriate for their age and development.
Do things together online – DIY videos are great fun for parents and kids, watch something interesting together and discuss it afterwards. Or join their video games.
Manage their routine where they have fun things to do and look forward to the day. It is imperative to strike a good balance, including playtime, extracurricular activities, hobbies, and adequate sleep. This is extremely crucial for the holistic development and good health of your child. This will allow your young tween to meet and socialize with new peer groups and develop unique skills. Dedicate time to them and encourage them to sing, dance, paint, write, play sports, etc.
Digital devices are an essential tool in today’s world, and current technology trends make them highly addictive. The key is not to eliminate it, but to embrace it with healthy boundaries consistently for you and those at home.
When screen time replaces meaningful activities and interactions, it increases the risk of lacking essential life skills that involve teamwork, critical thinking, socialization, and emotional regulation. The individual may have frequent outbursts, will be irritable and aggressive. So, pay attention to these, especially after screen time.
Shubhika Singh is a senior consultant psychologist specializing in young adults and co-founder of Innerkraft.com, based in Kolkata.
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