Get your child off that phone or tablet

She finished her exams and bam! She’s glued to the phone. Or he’s finished his work and cannot be pried off the computer, gaming into the night. Here's what you can do...

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What you shouldn't do is avoid giving electronic gadgets to your kids “because they may get addicted” or “what about perverts?”. Face it, going outdoors to play, or colouring books are not the current generation's choice of activity and it’s impractical to avoid electronics altogether.

          Keeping your child away from these gadgets mean you’re disconnecting him or her from the world that they are growing up in; you risk making them feel left out among their peers.

1) Read the device’s manuals

Most electronic devices come equipped with parental controls. They allow you to either set a timer or restrict access to content or limit online spending. Below are a list of gaming consoles with parental control instructions:

Nintendo Game Systems: Wii, Nintendo DS 

X-Box 360 

Playstation Game Systems: Playstation, Vita 

Apple Products: iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch

2) Play a video game

Want to understand why he’s spending time on it? Try it. He’ll appreciate you not just joining the “video games are bad” bandwagon. This will build his trust in you and he’ll likely be more than willing to reduce game time a little because you've proven you know what you're talking about. This also applies for his need to spend time watching TV or the Internet — you can sit with them and ask them to show you what they like to watch.

3) Set rules

Only after you’ve shown your child you understand his want to spend time on a game, have a talk with him about rules. Discuss (not demand) rules about timing and when it is and isn't acceptable to use electronics (including TV, Internet or gaming consoles). Keep the discussion short to prevent any miscommunication and give in to him on certain matters, so he wouldn’t be too resenting of the other rules. After all they say, “Lose the battle, win the war” — you might not agree on what he's saying, but in the larger scheme of things, you “win”.

4) Keep a time-log

Ask your child to keep a time log, then sit down and review it with him on a weekly basis. This is to ensure she’s respecting the rules you both agreed upon. Show her what per cent of her free time she’s spending on electronics — 20 per cent? 50 per cent? — then suggest the activities she could find interesting instead.

5) Be the judge

Is she really spending too much time on these devices, or do you just want her to minimise her time spent on the them? Instead of telling her to stop playing after an hour, call her to help you out with an activity — help set the table for dinner, maybe — or have some mother-child bonding time.

6) Create new interests

Share your personal interests, like gardening or cooking, and evaluate if it’s something he may latch onto. Or else think up of activities he could be interested in then try them out together — your presence with him could make it feel less difficult to try new activities! Check your nearest Community Centre for the latest activities — including backing classes — for kids of all ages. However, don't force him to do something as he might see it as a chore and only strengthen his desire to revert to his devices.

7) Set long-term goals

Start an activity that you know will last weeks with your child. For instance get a 1,000-piece (or 5,000 if you’re daring) puzzle that would keep you all occupied for a while. He’ll have something to look forward to by finishing the next chunk of puzzle instead of picking up his usual gadget. Other alternatives include buying him a book series (did anyone say Harry Potter?) and sewing — that could set him up for life with the opposite sex...

8) Examine his need for gadgets

Sometime kids turn to these devices as a form of escaping reality. Talk to your child's teacher to enquire about his social interactions. If there’s no cause for concern in his school and social life, then it could simply be solved by providing him a sanctuary at home that’s filled with conscious interactions, love and understanding. Have a set family time where you ask and listen — turn off your own devices! — to each other’s day including random conversations or odd things that popped into your mind.

9) Put the device in the living room

Avoid putting it in your child’s room so you can monitor them. This makes it easier to reinforce the rules and they won’t be tempted to sneak a game or TV show in the middle of the night.

10) Final no-nos...

  • Never speak at your child, speak to him. Kids tend to argue when they feel misunderstood, so never say “because I said so” as they lead to serious arguments especially with older kids. Explain why you’re telling them “no”, for better communication between parents and children.
  • No banning. Studies have shown that video games help develop a person’s hand-eye coordination and also teaches them to be a team player. Plus, the more you tell your child not to do something, the greater its appeal and the more he’ll want to do it.
  • Don’t fuss if he breaks the rules a bit. It takes 60 days to develop a habit so relax if he doesn’t obey to you right away. Instead be patient and offer encouragement over how much his habits have changed.

Photo: INGimage

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