In this new COVID world that we are living in, device usage has become the new norm. Children have had to quickly adapt to online learning and are now socialising online more than ever. Technology and devices have shown to have many positive attributes during COVID-19, such as helping us keep connected with loved ones who are far away and helping children continue their classroom learning online. However, excessive device usage also has negative aspects, such as its possibility to increase stress levels, negatively impact sleep and ability to limit the meaningful connections we make with those around us. One thing that I have noticed a lot of parents struggling with at the moment is how to limit their child’s device usage. If this is something you have struggled with, here are some tips that may help you:
- Model healthy device usage. Your child is constantly learning from you and your behaviours, so being a good role model for screen use is important. For instance, if you are scrolling through your phone every spare minute, you may not be modelling the device behaviour that you hope to see in your kids. Try reducing your own screen time, as this may also benefit your own wellbeing!
- Implement ‘Screen Free Zones’. Children need clear rules and boundaries, so establishing a ‘technology free zone’ is a good way to establish a physical boundary. For instance, a zone could be the dining table, to reserve time for family conversations.
- Set ‘Screen Free Times’. Set aside a time of day/night that the whole family switches off their devices (that includes parents!). This is another way you can implement a clear rule. Be sure to pick a time and stick to it! Consistency is important.
- Encourage other activities. Help your children to find fun and enjoyment out of other scree-free activities. For instance, bike riding, making an at home obstacle course, reading, creating a play/performance or playing a board game. This is a good opportunity to get creative with your child and to help them to discover what their interests are (which could also boost your child’s self-esteem!).
- Use positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement is when you provide praise or a reward when you see your child engage in a desired behaviour. For instance, when you see your children playing nicely together without devices, this is a perfect opportunity for you to praise them for being able to have fun without devices.
- Explain your reasoning. It is important that you explain to your child WHY you are limiting screen usage. If you explain that you are limiting device usage because of the downsides it has to our wellbeing, then your child may be more likely to follow the rules you are setting. If you child does not have a clean understanding of why you are limiting usage, they may interpret your discipline as ‘just being mean’ and they may be more likely to rebel against your rules.
If you would like some more tips or information about reducing screen usage for your children, please contact our clinic to book in an appointment with one of our psychologists.