In today’s society, children are growing up in a world that is dominated by digital media. From smartphones to television, their daily lives are often made up of an almost constant diet of digital apps, adverts, games and TV shows. Too much exposure and access to these digital mediums can have a dramatic impact on both young children’s physical and emotional development, so it is important that both parents and children discover and practice habits that can promote and encourage a healthy attitude towards mobile phones.
We may all wish for it sometimes, but mobile phones and other devices are not going away anytime soon. The best thing you can do is ensure these devices are used harmoniously in your household and that your children get the best they have to offer while avoiding any potentially damaging side effects.
Let’s take a look at methods you can use – as a parent – to promote healthy mobile phone usage for your children, regardless of their age. You’ll learn how to set time limits, plan family time as a distraction and other techniques that factor into sensible and healthy viewing and usage habits. And all without appearing like the enemy!
The Impact of Mobile Phones on the Younger Generation
Today’s younger generation, unlike the generation before them, are no longer growing up with teddy bears, dolls and toy cars (hence why the iconic ‘Toys ‘R Us’ store unfortunately had to close down); more often than not, children are given their parents’ mobile phones to play with and their own tablet at a young age. Studies show that 42% of children 8 years old and younger have a tablet device and spend at least 48 minutes a day looking at the screen, whether that time is spent watching programmes or playing games can often be hard to measure.
While this is no cause for concern on its own, these figures are increasing year by year, and manufacturers and marketing agencies are continuing to target the younger generation more and more with apps, marketing ads and in-app purchases.
Fortunately, there is no cause for panic. By implementing these tips, you can start to put some screen time boundaries in place that will keep everybody happy. Here are just a few ideas to help build those healthy foundations:
For Younger Children
Choose content and programs that you are familiar with and that you can watch and interact with together where possible.
If your child is watching content that shows activities such as dancing, singing and moving around, encourage them to repeat these activities in real life as well as watching it on screen.
Read reviews of apps and try them out for yourself before letting your child use them.
Look for apps with educational content or that offer ways to learn through gameplay.
Limit daily screen time to under an hour, and try to limit all screen time just before bedtime as this can interfere with regular sleep patterns.
Promote good habits by following them yourself. Children learn so much from their parents, so following the same rules can really make your job easier.
For School-Age Children and Teenagers
Whenever you can, preview apps and content beforehand to ensure it is age-appropriate.
Talk to your child about what they watch and encourage them to be open.
Learn more about ratings and reviews so that you can actively check on an app your child is using. There are some great resources out there for parents that can offer advice for mobile phone apps, TV programs, movies and video console games.
Stop your child from playing any game that changes their behaviour. For example, violent games and some social media apps can have a negative impact on mental stability.
Ensure your child understands the difference between reality and fantasy.
Encourage apps that provide educational features, such as word games, maths games and other games that test their mental agility. There are many apps available today that can help with studies.
Create a fine balance between screen time and sports and creative play.
Make a rule that chores and homework must be completed before screen time.
Make sure that late-night surfing or texting does not interfere with sleep time.
Living in such a technologically advanced era can be both a blessing and a curse. Although we now have greater access to resources and information, we are still learning how to occasionally put the phone down and enjoy real-life interactions. With a few tricks up your sleeve and a sensible approach to how much is too much and monitoring how your children use their devices, you can help your family to enjoy the best that smartphones have to offer and give them habits that they can carry through to adult life.
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