Updated: Jul 23, 2019
I treated myself to a new handbag, it was small, delicate and expensive but I saved up for it and will use it every day. Yesterday, my friends 3 year old was bored and cranky at the lunch table, so I gave her my new bag filled with my precious things to play with.
THIS WOULD NEVER HAPPEN.
So why do we give our kids our tablets and phones to play with? They may break or damage this very expensive piece of adult equipment, the risk of them accessing unsuitable content is high, even seeing some of your pics, messages or jokes you've been sent may not be a great idea. Get them their own gadgets. The Amazon Fire Kids Edition is under 100 EUR and super tough with long battery life. Leapfrog has a good range, and there are many others - just google 'kid's tablet' to find one to suit you.
A tablet or phone can be a great learning device, and some games are brilliantly designed to be fun and educational and of course it is handy for amusing children during travel or on rainy days. But we tend to use it like a grown up pacifier. Kid can't sit still. Starting to whine. Too much energy. A screen game makes most kids sit down, shut up and scroll/watch/play while we get some peace. But this is where addiction starts.... just like it's tough to wean your toddler off of a pacifier/dummy, if you always give your kid a video game when they are wound up, it will be tough for them to learn to unwind without one.
At the supermarket drive through the other day, a kid (no more than 3 years old) was engrossed in a game on her mums’ phone and wouldn't give it back when her mum needed to send a message. The kid ignores her mum, mum shouts at kid, kid ignores, mum shouts, finally mum takes the phone off the child who screams as if she’s just broken her arm. The mum sent the message and instantly gave the phone back to the kid who stopped screaming and went straight back to the game. No apology, no punishment, no discussion. This kid believes that car trips mean you play with mums’ phone because that is what she has always done. Chances are they weren't going to drive for more than 10 minutes once they had picked up their groceries. Is this what we've come to? Not being able to drive for 10 minutes without distracting your child with a screen based game?
Parenting is tough, no-one is perfect, and exceptions will be made. However, off screen time is very important and on-screen time shouldn't become the default way to calm a grumpy child. Here are some tips to help you manage your child’s screen time to suit your family:
Make set limited times for screen time at a time when the child isn't tired or cranky and will benefit and learn from an educational game
Have a maximum number of games on their device. If they get bored, they have to find a non screen based game to play. If they want a new game, you get to delete an old one.
Don't let your kid use your phone, it's YOUR phone not a toy. Keep their games off of it and find a more child oriented device for your child to use.
Chat or sing in the car with them, point out buildings, shops and scenery that you drive past, teach them road names and directions; todays kids have no sense of direction because they are always distracted whilst travelling!
When travelling long distances, bring out the gadgets after 20 minutes of non screen activity.
Lead by example - if you grab your phone at every traffic light, every time you park, every time you sit in a restaurant or waiting room, your child will expect to do the same.
And if you need help controlling your childs screen usage or setting up parental controls, contact me to find the solution that works best for you. #webbconsulting #parentalcontrol #webbmonaco #gadgetsforkids #offscreenactivities