How do you persuade your kid to ditch screen time for face time with you? First, plan out your approach before you hand over a phone and be cool…

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Are you grumbling “I already AM a cool parent!”? Or are you worrying “My child just doesn’t listen when I ask what they’re playing with on the phone like that…”?

Chong Ee Jay, manager of Touch Cyber Wellness and a member of the Media Literacy Council, says in the battle for face time against your child’s digital gadgets, your best bet would be to try to be “cool, digital-age parents”.

“There will always be a certain level of controversy and concern with regard to games, devices and social media — excessive amounts of time [spent on those media], inappropriate content etc.”

He points out that as parents, you will do your best to shield your child from age-inappropriate content. But there is always school and their schoolfriends “helpfully” showing your child their own games and chats, not to mention ads and shows on TV that make all these things seem so ultra-desirable.

He suggests that you turn this around on them, “Instead of shying away from [tech], why not work within appropriate boundaries and use it positively so that you promote and strengthen your parent-child bond and communications?”
How can you do this? Your best bet might actually be to get online….

“Instead of shying away from [tech], why not work within appropriate boundaries and use it positively so that you promote and strengthen your parent-child bond and communications?”

• If you know your child loves to play a particular mobile game, buy it yourself and learn the game (either by yourself or from your child). If you ask your child to teach you to play, it gives your child a chance to be your teacher, and gives you a chance to ask questions like “What do you like about this?” and talk about what you learned from it. Also, if you have access to the web, you can google for “game cheats” and how-tos and discuss these with your child.

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• When playing with your child on the phone/tablet/console, you can demonstrate how you yourself can get carried away — perhaps impacting something your child looks forward to? This could facilitate discussions about time management and cost from in-game apps.

• As with any situation that includes your child, you need to let them see that you are trying to be part of their world, and understand it a little. Then you can seize the opportunity (when it arises) to share any of your concerns — whether it’s about a specific game, or about a more general topic such as cyberbullying.

• And, of course, you need to model good digital behaviour yourself. When it’s family time, you should not be glued to your phone. Get off your own computer or Whatsapp and talk to your child and share some fun with them!

So how do you manage your child and their tech gadgets? Click next…

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Managing your child’s access to games and all things ’Net
Touch Cyber Wellness’ Chong suggests six tips for helping you keep tabs on how your child operates digitally.

1. Manage children’s exposure to smart phones and digital technologies. Restrict their access to your smart phone when they’re young age and avoid using it as a nanny-ing tool. Instead engage children with real-life activities such as play time, storytelling, reading aloud to them, building Legos etc.

2. Delay purchasing a phone for children as long as possible. When you do give in to the need to purchase a phone, go for a non-smart phone. It should be for communication and not for entertainment. And yes, this means you have to be talking to your child about what the phone is for vs what their friend does on the phone...

3. Where your parent-child relationship is strong with good communication, you should be updated on the password lock on their smartphone. This is recommended for transparency and accountability between parent and child in their smartphone usage.

4. Choose the right phone and plan — this means navigating the many tempting offers, and deciding what you feel you can accept. A data plan vs a non-data plan, pre-paid subscriptions vs post-paid subscriptions and so on.

5. Educate yourself so you know how to utilise phone controls if your child really needs a smartphone. Learn what you can do to filter and secure it. Check with Singtel, M1 or Starhub, or third-party software providers such as Norton Symantec.

6. Monitor phone bills. You have an advantage here because you pay the bill. Keep an eye on your child’s call and data usage, number of text messages sent (and to whom), value-added services downloaded and charged to the mobile phone bill (in-game credit purchases).

Chong Ee Jay is the manager for Touch Cyber Wellness and a member of the Media Literacy Council.

Photo: iStock

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