Our children are taught to use computers at a very early age. This, understandably, is a good step in primary education as the world around us would cease to operate if this device were to be abandoned. Tablets and phones have replaced the TV as the way of pacifying and keeping the children entertained. Recent figures have revealed that one in three toddlers use a gadget before they can even begin to talk! At times, it seems like technology is overtaking us and we as parents can only merely watch helplessly as bystanders.
So this brings to the fore a very pertinent question:
How much of technology is good for our children?
Firstly, it is important to understand the impact of excessive gadget usage on the overall development of a child. Apart from the reduced social interaction of children which is responsible for disrupting the normal communication skill development, continued usage may negatively affect a child’s brain and its functioning, and may even cause attention deficit, cognitive delays, impaired learning, increased impulsivity and decreased ability to self-regulation.
There are however, a few general signs that are worth looking out for, in order to identify if there is any un-healthy pattern of dependence on a gadget. When the gadget is taken away, it has usually been observed that a child displays signs of severe distress and agitation. Besides, on a day to day level, regular activities such as sleep, meal times, and eating habits are impacted and there is disturbance in social skills and etiquettes. This is the time when the alarm bells should start ringing and it is vital that you consider ‘de-addicting’ your child.
The following pointers may be helpful when you do decide in initiating a ‘digital detox’ for such children
Prevention is better than cure
As a parent, you would buy gadgets for your kids because you want your child to develop an aptitude towards technology. However, you should not replace all the playmates of your child such as puzzles, crayons, teddy bears and playtime with friends with apps, as there can be repercussions that are detrimental to child development. Hence, consider a gadget for your child only if you can balance a good exercise between technology and the real world of traditional games and fun.
Set a time limit
Setting a cardinal rule in the usage of gadgets on a daily basis would help regular monitoring of your child and help maintain equilibrium of social interaction activities. ‘Never more than an hour at any time’ would be ideal with maximum of this time permissible on weekends and half of it on week-days.
Equal time for playing outdoors
Children should be encouraged to understand the benefits of spending time on ‘outside’ activities. To establish good social communication and learning skills, at-least an hour has to be spent outside, riding bikes, skating, and playing with friends. Sports are one of the best ways to add moving activities to a child’s routine with the aim of creating stability between studying and playing.
Homework takes priority
This activity should at all times, be set on a higher precedence. Naturally, if your child needs to use the computer to complete his/her school work, this should be considered.
Family time takes preference
The time we have to train our little ones and bond with them is limited. The computer, the cell phones, iPod and any other techno gadgets cannot take the place of mom and dad. Our children need one on one time with parents, relatives and siblings, this way they’ll understand familial structure and inculcate a sense of priorities and responsibility. Do educate your child in the importance of spending quality time with the family and not join a family event when ‘I get done on the computer mom!’.
Charge their usage
If you are a parent, then it could be assumed you will be paying for all the bills, be it for a cell phone, electricity or the internet usage. You could try limiting their usage by saying they can spend a certain amount of time with each device, or else they may have to pay for it themselves. It’s been observed that while kids love their gadgets, they love their pocket money much more.
Open door policy
Always have your children keep their doors open so as to enable interaction with them, even during computer time. Check on the games they are playing or what they are looking up on the internet. Let them know you are interested and are paying attention. When possible, especially with younger children, sit with them, watch and interact.
While most of the times you’ll find some changes soon enough, other times you may feel like you have not found too much success in gadget de-addiction. At these times, you may need to adjust the sails a bit. For more serious gadget addiction issues, it is best to consult a professional therapist and go in for trained guidance.