Children are frequently using electronic devices with screens, such as browsing the internet or playing games. With the pandemic, there has been an increase in screen time as online classes and virtual communication are necessary. That’s why some parents are worried about their child’s eye health due to prolonged exposure to electronic radiation.
Here are five smart but easy ways to limit it:
Manage your child’s account
How often do children age 4 or 5 use smartphones, tablets, and computers to play games or browse the Internet?
At this age, children have become adept at creating Internet or app accounts, generating login information such as usernames, email addresses, and passwords, and resolving any issues that may arise.
As a result, it is critical for parents to stay informed about these activities. Failing to explore these areas and being unaware can leave you lagging behind in today’s digital age.
There are two options for you:
- Create a family account for your child. Using Google as an example, it is prohibited for children under 13 to create their own accounts. Only individuals over the age of 13 can register on their behalf. This is where your role as a parent becomes important. As the account manager, you have the privilege of adding up to five users to your family group, and you have the ability to remove members or delete the group. You have control over the account rules and settings, which enables you to implement restrictions and monitor your child’s online activities. This also allows you to reduce their screen time significantly.
- Have access to his created account. If your child insists on creating an account under their name and administration, they can do so. However, what about the age limit? It is unfortunate that your child can falsify their birthday and age to pass the account registration process. Google does not require the submission of a birth certificate or ID, except for a business account. In this case, it is important to obtain your child’s login credentials, so you can access their account. This will allow you to log in anytime and anywhere to monitor their online activities.
Implement digital detox
What is a digital detox? It involves the removal of toxins from the body through a proper diet, exercise, and other methods. Similarly, digital detoxification involves taking a break from using electronic devices from time to time. However, a gentle approach may not always be effective for children, particularly if they are stubborn. It may be necessary to take a more assertive approach to ensure compliance with your rules.
Here are some tips on how to do a digital detox:
- Make a schedule. You are free to decide on the schedule and frequency of your child’s digital detox. However, it is advisable to implement it during bedtime and mealtime to avoid disrupting important family routines. It is also crucial for other family members to set a positive example as children are more likely to follow their parents’ behaviour rather than just their words.
- Set a timer. It is advisable to establish a maximum screen time limit for your child. A reasonable duration is eight hours per day. It is crucial to adhere to this limit without any extensions. Using an alarm clock or timer can help monitor screen time. Place the timer close to you to prevent your child from tampering with it.
- Unplug or switch off. If creating a schedule and setting a timer doesn’t work, you may need to exercise your authority. You can choose to intentionally unplug or switch off electronic devices to ensure strict compliance. This approach is straightforward and does not require any further explanation. Your child has no choice but to obey. This is for their own good, so it is important to ensure that they understand your intentions and follow them wholeheartedly.
Implement screen time as a reward
Many parents overlook the fact that electronic devices are beneficial for certain activities, such as schoolwork or searching for information. However, it becomes a concern when a significant amount of time is spent using these devices for mere entertainment. Therefore, it’s important to take action and redefine screen time as a non-priority activity. It should be considered a privilege and not a right. You can reward your child with screen time for completing tasks in your favour. If your child refuses to comply, you may need to take away their device as a consequence until they learn to follow the rules.
Here’s how to implement the reward system:
- House chores. Encourage your child to engage in household chores such as washing dishes, sweeping and mopping the floor, watering plants, and feeding pets. These activities can teach your child the importance of hard work and productivity, as well as the significance of cleanliness and organisation.
- Reading and studying. Encourage your child to read books instead of spending too much time in front of screens. Reading helps develop verbal and comprehension skills. It can also sharpen memory and exposes children to new knowledge.
Maintain gadget-free zones at home
It is advisable to designate certain areas of the house as technology-free zones for your child. Even though an internet connection may be available throughout the house, it’s essential to have specific locations where your child is not allowed to use technology. This can help limit screen time and encourage other activities.
What are these areas?
- Bedroom. Since the bedroom is primarily for rest, it is recommended not to turn it into an entertainment zone. To achieve this, leave electronic devices outside the room before going to bed to create a sacred, secure, and quiet haven.
- Kitchen and dining room. Whether your home has a separate kitchen and dining area or both are in one room, it’s essential to keep electronic gadgets away. The reason is to prevent food and drink spills on the devices and to avoid interruptions from phone calls or chats while cooking or dining.
- Bathroom. Bringing electronic gadgets to the toilet is unnecessary and inappropriate. Besides, there’s a risk of getting your phone wet, among other things you do in this area. Therefore, it’s recommended to keep gadgets away from the bathroom.
Offer alternative recreation
It is easy for children to rely solely on electronic gadgets for learning and entertainment. However, it is important for them to also enjoy life outside of the screen.
Play physical games
Have fun with these card and board games with your child:
- Scrabble. Forming words in a crossword fashion using lettered titles
- Word factory. Looking for as many words as possible from a case of lettered cubes in a limited time
- Monopoly. Rolling the dice, buying, selling, building, and scheming to become a wealthy landlord
- Snakes and ladders. Rolling the dice and trying your luck to get to the one-hundredth square despite the snake and ladder traps and tricks
- Watch ya mouth. Reading a phrase out loud with a cheek retractor for your child to guess
- Act your wage! Earning a salary, paying bills, saving, and paying off debts
- Outburst. Mentioning as many possible answers as you can for a given topic
- Scattergories. Mentioning as many possible names that start with a given letter and fall into the chosen category
- Guesstures. Acting up a given person or object without words for your child to guess
Or, you can play outdoors with the following:
- Hide and seek. Counting to the desired duration while your child looks for a place to hide then seeking them afterwards
- Freeze dance. Dancing while the music plays and freezing in your position as it stops
- Back to back. Sitting on the ground back to back with your child and pressing against each other to stand without using your hands
- Do the hop. Hopping up and down with a bandana draped over one of your feet
- Don’t drop the ball. Hopping or skipping with a ball between your knees
- Backyard bowling. Rolling a semi-heavy ball towards the pins
- Sack race. Racing with your child while jumping with a sack
Go on a family gathering or trip
Consider planning a family night as a way to enjoy time together outside of screen time. You could prepare your favourite foods and snacks, set up a karaoke machine, or play games. If you prefer to spend time outdoors, you could visit a nature park or go on a mountain hike and camp overnight. Be sure to bring appropriate gear, such as a tent, clothes, food, drinks, and an emergency kit. Taking a walk, enjoying the scenery, and listening to the sounds of nature can provide a relaxing and refreshing break from screen time.
David Radar, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.
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