Once upon a time, tantrums were the exclusive preserve of “terrible twos.” And then came the internet.
When it comes to limiting access to devices, today’s digital kids are capable of chucking wobblies well into their teens. At the same time, technology has handed younger kids a whole new reason to melt down.
Putting firm boundaries around the games, shows and apps our kids love sounds easy - famous last words! Just set some rules, and maybe a timer, and stick to it. How hard can it be?
Actually, very hard. And that goes double when limiting screen-time transforms your beloved child into wailing, flailing ball of misery.
Consistency when it comes to screen-time management is every bit as difficult as consistency with any other form of parental discipline - and every bit as essential. No - make that even more difficult and more essential.
Screens can be addictive
In other arenas of parenting, we may sometimes struggle with setting authoritative boundaries to keep our kids safe - but at least we aren’t trying to manage potentially addictive behaviours. When it comes to device use, that’s exactly what we’re doing.
Too much screen-time is like too much sugar - there will be both obvious short-term consequences (moodiness, acting out) and more profound long-term risks to your child’s health and wellbeing.
Unlike a steady diet of gummy bears, screen-time offers many benefits to our children - socially, academically and creatively.
You wouldn’t dream of letting them eat lollies for dinner or guzzle softdrink for breakfast - but then again they wouldn’t dream of demanding that. That’s because you’ve set the rules around nutrition so early and so consistently. There’s a lesson there about screen-time.
But unlike a steady diet of fairy floss, screen-time in fact offers many benefits to our children - socially, academically, creatively, and just in terms of play and fun. In today’s world, technology not just “dessert” - it’s an important part of a balanced diet. Banning technology altogether is simply not a healthy option.
The Five C's
So how to deal? Family Zone’s cyber experts recommend five C’s: Clarity, Consistency, Consultation, Consequences and Controls.
Here are some of their top tips:
And finally, don’t be afraid to try creative solutions. One family with young, cartoon-addicted preschoolers decided to try draping a blanket over the TV after the hour of morning viewing mum and dad had agreed to allow.
“The television is sleeping now,” they informed their children matter-of-factly.
“Shhhhh,” the kids chorused on cue - and scampered outside to play.
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