First Look Asia asks if parents should lock up all digital devices so kids can focus on school?

Guests Clinical Psychologist Dr Amy Reale and parent Fabian Yeo

Q Sleep is affected by mobile phones or digital devices in the bedroom, what are some of the psychological effects on children?
Dr Amy Reale
Children learn through social interaction with their environment, so if they are spending a lot of time on devices that means they are missing out time spend on social interaction with other people. Speak to children about how overstimulating the electronic devices are and set limits. Children needs to know that parents are the one who lets them on the devices and can make a choice regarding what devices, what applications and what they are exposed to.

Fabian Yeo I employ a three-pronged approach at home. One is a phone stack — when they come back from school, the phones are placed on a charging station on the table and no usage of the phone [allowed] unless needed for homework or project work. Second is no phones during meal times. And the last is “me” time, where they get time to use the phones for certain periods during the day.

Q On average, how much time do your children spend on the phone each day?
Forty-five minutes, it was tough initially, but you get used to it.

Q What kind of signs should parents look out for that could signal that their children are overusing their devices?
If there is excessive use of devices, when children are not able to disconnect at all, when mood changes or if they are not paying attention to their bodily function (not eating, not going to the bathroom) or shows signs of withdrawal. Research shows that there are confounding factors so if your child struggles with social interaction, then you may want to restrict devices even more so it is important to consider your child.

Q Many children interact with their friends through Whatsapp, Facebook or Skype. Is that a bad thing?
We have to know what they are doing online, we have to know who they are online with. Keep open communication lines, talk to them about it and speak to them about the pitfalls and potential dangers about using the devices. Share with them their responsibility and consequences for over usage. Take one step with them instead of just restricting and enforcement — which won’t work.

Q How should parents keep the line of communication open?
Have time with your children and ensure that you are talking with them. Don’t have [your] phones and devices at meal times. Have time to engage, play board games and if it is necessary to play electronic games, play those that are interactive, social, educational and age-appropriate.

Photo: INGimage

Want to know more reasons to keep your kids offline? See First Look Asia’s video