Between school work, keeping in touch with friends, and entertainment, there are a host of things that children use electronics for.
In fact, the 21st-century lifestyle demands that we be equipped with cell phones, iPads, TVs, and gaming systems. Being surrounded by so much technology makes it nearly impossible for most kids to go one day without touching a screen.
Using a computer or a cell phone, watching a cartoon, or playing a game on an iPad isn’t a bad thing; however, for the health and well-being of your child, they should be used in moderation.
Emphasis on the word moderation.
But what exactly does moderation mean?
How do you set healthy boundaries so your children don’t form unhealthy addictions to their electronic devices?
And what can you do to ensure that the technology in your home doesn’t become a problem?
These are questions I get asked all the time as a professional parent coach. And my answer is this…
It’s not about removing electronics from your child’s life. The key is helping your children take a break from screens and setting healthy boundaries about electronic usage in your home.
Here’s an example of what this might look like…
Little Timmy is an avid TV watcher. Without anyone intervening, he’d happily sit and watch TV for hours–from the time he got home from school to the time he went to bed.
Clearly, this isn’t an ideal situation. Not only is Timmy going to form unhealthy habits sitting in front of the TV all evening, but the blue light from the television is also going to disrupt his sleeping patterns.
We all know there’s nothing more unfun than a little one who doesn’t sleep. Yikes!
After a long day of school, Timmy might need a half hour of TV time to decompress and chill out (and you might need that time to get some of your own things done).
That’s totally ok.
But, kids don’t inherently know the healthy boundary of a half hour of TV time, and it’s your job as a parent to teach and enforce this.
To help Timmy understand that electronics are a privilege, instruct him that he will “earn” his 30 minutes of TV time after he first does a simple chore, goes outside for some fresh air, engages in an hour of free playtime, or whatever you choose.
Then, let Timmy unwind, watch his cartoon, and turn the TV off.
To avoid the battle that sometimes comes with turning off screens, prepare in advance with Timmy by brainstorming a list of other fun activities so there are fun alternatives to move towards. Ideas include things such as playing a board game together, making a craft, or free-playing with other non-electronic toys.
This starts the process of helping Timmy form healthy electronics habits.
If you have a child that currently has unhealthy screen habits and continues to battle you when it’s time to turn electronics off, it’s a great idea to hold a family meeting.
During this meeting, talk about how much screen time your kids currently get and say, “We’re going to practice including other fun things into our days because in our family we value connection and fresh air, too.”
Then brainstorm a list of alternatives together that your child will get excited about.
At this point, you may be saying, “That’s great, but my child is much older. How can I help Suzy set boundaries…especially when she has to spend hours on the computer doing homework?”
Let’s walk through one more simple example.
From computer lab to researching in school for her biology project, Suzy has spent a majority of her day on the computer. On top of in-class technology use, she’s also been given at least an hour of homework that requires her to use the computer when she gets home.
Sadly, this problem is all too common among older children.
Encourage Suzy to find activities she enjoys, like joining an after-school club, playing with friends outside, playing a sport, or crafting.
These activities will give her a chance to decompress and have some fun without any screens being involved. Better yet…there’s a good chance that Suzy will thoroughly enjoy these activities just as much, or even more, than sitting in front of a screen.
It is possible for kids to have fun and enjoy themselves without having to be plugged into a wall.
To discover what activities will make your child happy, ask the following questions…
- What do you like about being on the computer?
- Who do you get to be?
- How could we bring more of that to your life offline?
Then transition the conversation to focus on activities that include the things your child just listed.
Example: If your Suzy is easily sucked into watching musicals on tv, perhaps she would enjoy joining the drama club or audition for her school’s musical. Or, if Suzy is constantly plugged into her headphones and iPod, maybe she’d enjoy taking singing lessons or learning how to play an instrument.
Once Suzy has had a break from electronics, she can move on to her homework.
Then, I advise that, after dinner, you encourage her to play a game with the family or connect with friends face-to-face, read a book, do a puzzle, etc. Designate after-dinner hours as “screen free” times and help her uphold this boundary by staying off electronics.
Once again, the blue lights in electronics can easily disrupt sleep patterns. And if you thought a non-sleeping toddler was bad, just wait until you experience a tweenager or teenager that is lacking quality sleep.
These scenarios I just presented give a few simple solutions to helping kids form healthy electronic usage habits. But, as someone who works with parents on a regular basis, I know the issue can be far more complicated than suggesting your child go and read a book.
The good news…
Summer vacation is here. And it’s the perfect time to help “wean” your kids off electronics and guide them to establishing better electronic usage habits.
Need some extra guidance, are worried that your child has been addicted to electronics, or just simply want some extra tips on setting healthy electronic usage boundaries for your children?
You’re in luck!
I’ve created an Electronic Usage Blueprint that is designed to help you…
- Stop fighting with your children over screens.
- Expand your child’s interests to include socializing and going outside.
- Develop a happier, more cohesive family dynamic.
- Create a long-term plan for healthy electronic habits
And for a limited time, I’m dropping the price of the program(a $97 value) to only $47!
When you purchase this program, you’ll receive a 32-page workbook, including detailed notes on every concept and specific action steps to successfully navigate bumps in the road.
Put your child on the path to success and make electronic usage a problem of your past.