How to solve your child’s smartphone addiction
Is YOUR child addicted to their phone? The ten steps you need to break the cycle including 15 minutes outside for every hour of screen time
- EXCLUSIVE: British author Tanya Goodin’s new book is Stop Staring at Screens
- Reveals how to renegotiate your family’s relationship with technology
- Says tricks such as push notifications should be explained to older children
- Families should use only one screen at a time, so no scrolling in front of the TV
If trying to peel your children away from their smartphones and tablets is a constant battleground in your home, an action plan to revamp the family digital habits may be in order.
British author Tanya Goodin Founder of `Time to Log off has just released a new book, Stop Staring at Screens, which reveals how you can build a better relationship with tech as a family.
And according to Tanya, it’s not about banning devices completely but negotiating a more balanced approach through techniques such as creating an ‘untethering’ station in the home and getting kids to spend 15 minutes outdoors for every hour of screentime.
‘Ever-escalating rows about screen time can sometimes seem the only way you talk about tech at home,’ she told Femail. ‘But there are healthier ways to discuss, and cut down on, your children’s time on screens.
If your child can’t be parted from their smartphone or tablet, you need a 10 step programme to help reset the boundaries, according to a new book (stock image)
1. MODEL HEALTHY SCREEN HABITS
It all starts with you. Your success in getting your children away from screens will be directly related to how much time you spend on them yourself. Take a critical look at your own screen habits and get them under control first.
2. FOCUS ON TIMES AND PLACES
Complicated rules and conditions are easier to find exceptions for – and subvert. Associate screen time with specific times of day and named rooms in the house and they’ll be easier to enforce. ‘No screens before breakfast is eaten’ and ‘no screens in bedrooms overnight’ are two good places to start.
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3. ESTABLISH CONSEQUENCES
Make very clear up front what the consequences are for flouting any of the screen rules and be prepared to follow-through on the consequences you’ve laid out. If consequences aren’t proportional, or they’re inconsistently applied, then you can wave goodbye to adherence to the rules.
4. EXPLAIN ADDICTIVE TECH TRICKS
Take the time to explain to children how the software they use is designed to hook them in and keep them coming back for more. Push notifications, unpredictable rewards, gamification are all examples of this – read up on the field of ‘addictive tech’ and discuss it as a family. Older children will definitely be interested, and it will make them more aware of the traps that they can fall into.
Making screen breaks seem appealing with a fun activity such as baking can help tempt younger children away from their devices (stock image)
A box, basket or a charging station in a central place where you all keep your phones is a great way to untether yourselves from your devices at home and focus on other things. Some families even ask their visitors to leave their devices in a central place when they walk in the door – why not give that a try too?
6. ‘GAMIFY’ SCREEN BREAKS
Turn screen breaks into green breaks and get kids outside in the fresh air at regular intervals when they’ve spent time on their devices – 15 minutes for every hour spent on a screen is my rule. Take a tip out of the tech playbook and ‘gamify’ breaks for younger kids by designing a garden circuit or obstacle course they have to complete during their screen breaks, with a leader board for times and challenges completed.
7. SOLO SCREEN
In her new book Stop Staring At Screens, Tanya Goodin reveals how the whole family can renegotiate a healthier relationship with tech
Sitting watching TV while also scrolling on social media, or picking up messages on a smartphone, is pretty standard behavior on family sofas. Get multi-screening under control by agreeing that one screen at a time is the rule.
It may even restore some of the fun of watching TV together as a family when you’re all focused on the same thing,
8. OFFER APPEALING ALTERNATIVES
Sometimes the best approach is to let children experience the boredom that might come up without their screens, so they find their own entertainment solutions. But coming up with some appealing alternatives yourself will help to kick off their creative thinking. Organise some screen-free activities that you know they always enjoy (family cake making, paint-balling or swimming perhaps) to remind them there’s a big world out there away from their screens.
9. KEEP CALM
Shouting and screaming will only inflame any tricky situation and undermine all the good groundwork you’ve laid. Take ten deep breaths before confronting any situation you’re unhappy with and try to talk it through as calmly as possible, explaining what needs to change. Encourage children to communicate how they feel calmly too and you’ll all have a fighting chance of finding a way through.
10. BAN SCREENS ONE-TO-ONE
One of the biggest casualties of family time spent on screens is the diminishing time you spend talking to your children, and vice versa. Make it a rule that when any of you are one-to-one with each other devices are always firmly away and out of sight.
Reconnecting with each other is part of the joy of unplugging, so focus not on not what you’re missing out on – but on what you’re gaining.
Stop Staring at Screens by Tanya Goodin, Ilex, £9.99 is available from octopusbooks.co.uk. For more information visit itstimetologoff.com
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