Ending techno tantrums without pain: 5 easy(ish) keys to family harmony

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.

sugarkid

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:

  • Don’t issue ad-hoc orders (“Get off TikTok NOW!”) or wait til you get so frustrated you suddenly confiscate devices. Tactics like these - while understandable - are pretty much guaranteed to spark confrontation.
    Instead, plan, brainstorm and discuss, discuss, discuss before you take any action. 
  • Sit down with your kids and create CLARITY around media management plan that you can all live with.
    How? By CONSULTING with them before setting rules around what, when, where and how much screen-time each child is allowed. Don’t forget to be clear about with whom it’s okay to connect, too! Consider doing this in the form of a written contract, like this one, prepared by Family Zone. 
  • Be specific - well in advance - in your instructions about cut-off points. For example, “You can watch two episodes of The Worst Witch, and then turn off the TV” or “You can get to level five in the game, and then you need to turn it off.” And above all, be CONSISTENT in your follow-through.
  • For older kids, discuss the boundaries you are setting before you put them into place, and be willing to negotiate if circumstances change.
  • Be sure to set and discuss CONSEQUENCES for breaking the rules you’ve agreed on. (And accept right from the git-go that they will be broken. That’s how learning happens.)
    For younger kids, an obvious logical consequence is simply to remove the device for a specified period of time.
    Experts do not recommend this strategy for older kids, however. Instead, consider temporarily deleting or banning a troublesome app or game. Or set a consequence that isn’t related to screens at all - maybe doing extra chores or even paying an “infringement” fine.
    Experts agree it’s a great idea to consult your kids for input. And don’t be surprised if their ideas for consequences are harsher than yours! 
  • Once having set consequences, be sure to enforce them. You can do this with empathy and understanding - in fact you should - but make sure that you follow through.
    Aim for a response like: “I know you wanted to keep playing, and that it’s frustrating to leave in the middle of a level. But these are the rules we agreed on” - full stop. No further conversation, and no negotiation, but also no anger.
  • Give warnings before screen-time ends. Called “cognitive priming,” these simple verbal reminders get kids prepared for switch-off. 
  • Don’t use screen-time as a reward - or, for that matter, as a punishment. It’s a short-term fix, and it sends the wrong messages.
  • Use parental CONTROLS to automate the screen-time rules you’ve decided on for study, play and sleep, and to block inappropriate content. Experts who have written and researched extensively on the topic of techno tantrums, including acclaimed child development specialist Dr. Kristy Goodwin, recommend Family Zone.

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.

 

The digital world can open so many doors for our children.

Family Zone's world-leading parental controls can help ensure they get the best out of their online experiences - while staying protected from the worst.

Why not start your free trial today?

 

 

 

 

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Topics: Cyber Bullying, Parental Controls, Screen time, Mobile Apps, Cyber Safety, techno tantrums

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