Decades ago TV came to the rescue of parents when they were too busy with work to deal with their kids. The situation remains the same even today, with gadgets like iPads, gaming consoles and smartphones being added to the mix. These visually stimulating devices hit the reward circuit and pleasure parts of the brain which is why they quickly turn into an addiction. Hence, the use of electronic gadgets like television, video games, and tabs by children are dangerously on the upswing. Unfortunately, parents are finding it increasingly difficult to regulate their kids’ online habits as the gadget addiction is detrimental to their overall development.
Here are 10 ways parents can influence their children towards a healthier and dependence-free lifestyle.
Lead by Example
Children learn by watching their parents, and when they see their role models hovering over their smartphones all the time, they feel that it is the norm. That is why more and more young kids are replacing their outdoor play time with sitting on a couch playing video games. So parents need to exercise rules regarding their time spent with devices. Set aside time for your family like during meals where all your smartphones are switched off, and you can enjoy having real conversations.
As the digital world and platforms are encroaching our lives more and more, it makes it difficult to separate it from our day-to-day functions. The best way is to regulate its use so that children get their way without going overboard. Setting time limits as to when your child can play their video games or use their smartphones will go a long way. Also, ensure that they get access to these privileges only once their homework and other chores are in order.
Avoid Direct Access to Gadgets
It is difficult to get kids to follow the set rules and time limits if the TV or computer rests in their personal space like the bedroom. Ensure that all the electronic gadgets are in the living room where you can monitor their online activity and also ensure adherence to the set time limits. Avoiding unlimited access to the gadgets is an essential step in breaking their dependency on them.
Be an Engaging Parent
Kids, especially when young, need to be continuously engaged with their parents. Children who feel lonely and isolated tend to look for companionship in gadgets. Although sometimes it is easy to give way to their gaming demands to keep them occupied, it is not deemed prudent in the long run. The best way to nip their online addiction in the bud is to spend one-on-one time with them, engage in activities together, and be involved in their lives.
Nowadays, learning has been incorporated seamlessly into the digital medium, but the demerit is that it feeds right into their online addiction and can lead to prolonged time spent online. A healthier alternative is getting your children engaged in age-appropriate activity boxes. You can have these activity boxes delivered to your house every month. These engaging tools combine learning with play and kids can quickly learn the basics of science experiments, making different tools which improves their coordination, motor learning skills and much more.
Indulge them in their Favorite Hobbies
Get them engaged in their favorite hobbies like painting, reading, dancing, or outdoor sports. Children will naturally be reluctant to leave their sedimentary lifestyle behind and participate in fun activities, so the trick is to reward them for their efforts every time. Kids love overcoming new challenges, and if you reward them for say, completing a new book, they feel encouraged and motivated. Rewards do not have to be things like chocolate or a new pair of shoes, but merely appreciating them and spending more time with them will set their priorities in place.
Different Kind of Distraction
Although gadgets like television, video games, and smartphones may provide a temporary distraction, it limits their options when faced with boredom. Parents who worry about not getting their kids engaged enough, should instead look at their boredom as a way to instigate their creativity. Ask them what they would like to do with their free time and encourage healthier activities. In this way, you are helping them work out a way to manage their boredom and also showing them that they have other more exciting alternatives.
Break the Routine
Kids generally turn to their devices at a specific time during the day like after school or before bedtime. It becomes a part of their routine, and suddenly other vital things take a backseat. Parents can break this routine by introducing some healthier alternatives like reading them a bedtime story before sleep or enrolling them for piano lessons after school.
Kids never comply with parents when they are trying to enforce a new deadline on their online habits. Let them know 10 minutes in advance that their gaming time is coming to a close so that they can anticipate it rather than watching them throw tantrums at the end of it. Also, make it a point to utilize their newfound free time to fill the gap with their interests. For example, if your kid loves playing FIFA online, get him/her enrolled in football training so that they can engage in the real deal as opposed to the digital one.
Negotiate Screen Time with Them
Negotiating with your kids is the best way to reach a middle ground which works for both of you. Kids can be taught to earn their gaming console rights by doing certain chores deemed fit by you. For example, if they can eat a healthy vegetable which they despise, or do simple household chores, they can be entitled to appropriate online time. It also teaches them that they have to work towards getting things rather than being spoon-fed a luxurious life.
In the end, online addiction is just like any other form of dependency, and it takes time, patience and support to get kids on a healthier pattern of lifestyle.
Until then, Happy Parenting!