I think most parents and carers have a love-hate relationship with electronic devices; they're great at occupying attention, stimulating them or even help them to settle. But particularly throughout one of the strangest 12 months in our lifetime, with 3 lock-downs and many tiers (pun intended), electronic devices have never been so noticeably important in most peoples lives, including the children and young people we are looking after.
As the light at the end of the tunnel gets increasingly closer we're poised for things to return to something that resembles life as we knew it, how do you reduce the amount of time your young ones are playing on their Xbox, PlayStation, iPad, Smart Phone or watching YouTube?
Not so long ago I was doing some research because another carer asked me how to manage screen time, and I came across a few ideas that I thought I would share that might help as you ween them from their dependency on electronic devices in order to get out of the house and enjoy freedom again!
Put yourself in their shoes...
You've got your feet up in front of the telly and you're 45 minutes into an episode of your favourite series on Netflix, the story line is building up towards something big, the answers you've been excitedly waiting for are about to unravel... then someone interrupts and wants your attention. You're asked to move your shoes or clean the toilet seat! Or worst of all someone walks in and picks up the remote and switches the TV off.
Think about your reaction, would you let it go over your head? Ignore them, or ask them to 'wait just one minute'? Or would you become angry?
Imagine your child or young person is playing away on their Xbox on a game they're engrossed in, it's time sensitive or they're in a competition and you interrupt them to tell them to tidy up, to put their shoes away or you tell them to get ready because you're all heading out to the shops. Or worse, you walk up to their Xbox and hit the power button and turn it off.
How will they react? Do they ignore you? Do they plead for you to hang on or tell you how unfair you're being? Or would they get angry and lash out?
If you've ever been in this situation where the above has happened, often the outcome isn't positive for anyone. But if you are able to put yourself in their shoes and think about what this means for them, maybe you'll see things differently. It didn't matter that they were on a particular level in their game, or about to win a competition, because they can pick up where they left off later right? No not at all. Their reaction is exactly the same as what yours would be. If someone snatched your book off you when you're half way through a paragraph you'd be upset, annoyed and feel disrespected.
We are the parent, they should listen!
Yes absolutely, but at the same time all it takes is for you see the situation from their point of view. Think about how engrossed we become in our TV shows, phones, work calls or games. However we prepare ourselves to put the book down at the next chapter or pause the TV at the next advert break. We gear up to switch our focus and often consult with ourselves before deciding to do something.
Give them advance warning
Give a warning that their time is almost up! A simple conversation that they'll soon have to switch their device off and get ready to do something else. 'After this level, you need to tidy your room please' or 'you've got 5 minutes before you have to switch that off and come downstairs' should give them enough warning and time to wrap things up. Maybe they'll try to negotiate, so be prepared to counter offer if they attempt to pull the wool over your eyes.
Remind them again!
When the time is up, distract them a little and initiate a conversation with them to draw their attention away from their device, game or TV show. Eventually this will teach them that switching off and doing something you ask them isn't the end of the world.
These two steps can save you hours of disruption and might help you avoid having to argue your case. It also creates respect for you, and the young person too.
Set a time limit
Avoid the situation all together by telling them exactly how long they have on their devices so they can prepare themselves in advance, in the same way you would consult with yourself. Many of the devices mentioned in this post have parental controls that allow you to set daily limits which can be managed remotely!