More children are using the internet than ever before and it seems that, without them even knowing, it can be restricting their social growth and their academic development. How many of us know a teen that’s more likely to Instant Message a friend than call round for them? How many of us know a teen that becomes argumentative (and stroppy) if they were to have their internet access restricted?
It’s also really important to note that a child’s ‘off switch’ doesn’t develop until their early twenties. This means it’s vitally important we offer them rules and structure to help this important life skill to grow.
With the Summer Holidays upon us, now would be the perfect time to start guiding the youngsters in our lives; in not only the ‘off switch’ but in healthy internet usage as well. So how can we stop our kids from using the internet too much?
Establish great habits early and be a great role model
A great rule of thumb is that junior age children should have no more than an hour a day on the computer – perhaps if you allot time in 15-30 minutes increments, you can use the break time to chat, encourage communication and being a great role model? That means ‘put your laptop/tablet/phone down often’ and show your child that you too can follow such rules.
Create ‘No Technology’ Zones and ‘Unplugged’ Time Frames
By designating an area and a time of no technology, you’re teaching your child that technology is most certainly something to put down and pick back up again (as opposed to never put down). Why not make the dining room a No Technology Zone so meal times are just for chatting? And how about just before bed, an Unplugged moment – that way you can chat to your heart’s content and maybe even build on your relationship with your child.
Encourage other activities and use screen time as a privilege
By encouraging the youngsters to do something else, you’re helping them find their sense of adventure; go for walks, dig their bikes out of the shed, pack a picnic or, if the weather’s not on your side, pull out the dusty board games and have a Games Afternoon. All this will guide the children to be more varied people in the future – and if you throw in a bit of screen time as a privilege, they’re bound to do as they’re told too!