We all know kids love screens. Really, really LOVE them. It’s no surprise – adults do too, but we know when to turn them off (right?) Kids don’t - and that can mean mayhem managing their behaviour on- and off-screen.
Dr Kristy Goodwin, children’s brain and technology researcher at Every Chance to Learn, shares her advice for dealing with the digital age and tells us how to unplug your kids without them blowing a circuit.
1. Fix a time limit based on your child’s behaviour
“There are national guidelines on screen time, but every child is different so there’s not really a prescriptive limit that kicks in according to your child’s chronological age. It’s all about observing your child’s behaviour and deciding when enough is enough. For some kids, 10 minutes on the iPad is more than enough. To find your child’s individual threshold, watch your child when they’re on the screen and note the moment their behaviour starts to go down that slippery slope.”
2. Enforce that limit
“It’s one thing to set a limit, we all know as a parent the tricky thing is enforcing that limit. It’s really important to set up healthy media habits from a young age. People often ask when do I need to start taking to my child about screentime? Basically, the minute you hand over your iPhone to calm down your toddler is the minute, you start to have that conversation. You have to realise that with young kids talking about time is meaningless. It’s completely abstract. Ten minutes means nothing to them. Give your child a specific quantity – i.e. “We’re going to watch two episodes of this show or two unboxing videos and then we’re going to turn it off.”
3. Head that post-iPad tantrum off at the pass
“Warn your child that they are approaching the point where their device is about to be switched off. If you just cut them off all of a sudden, their brain’s no longer getting a dopamine hit and that’s when you’ll get the techno tantrum.”
4. Beware the ‘unboxing’ black hole
“One of the reasons young children get hooked on unboxing videos (YouTube clips showing new toys being opened) is because they’re actually having a neurobiological response. As they watch the host unpacking the toys, their brains are releasing endorphins and dopamine because of the sense of anticipation as they’re eagerly watching what’s about to come out of the box. Our brains are wired to seek novelty and that’s what unboxing videos offer young children. There’s always something different and unusual coming out of the box.”
5. Switch on safety mode
“There are limits to setting parental controls on the internet. Be aware there’s no 100% effective safeguard to what your child watches online. The best way to prevent a child watching inappropriate material is to stay in the room with them and co-view, but as a busy parent it’s not always possible. I recommend when you go on YouTube on your laptop, your tablet or your mobile checking that ‘safety mode’ is always switched on. It’s usually at the very bottom of the page. This adds an extra safety filter.”
6. Filter what they watch and make playlists
“If you’re going to let your child watch You Tube, curate your own playlist in advance. Have a selection of clips that you’ve checked to load one after another. I also recommend using an app like I-Tube List. This app lets you create your own playlists as you do in YouTube but the added benefit is that it blocks comments and any peripheral videos you can usually see. With slightly older kids that can read it’s often the comments that are more harmful than the pop-up videos.”
7. Get the Common Sense Media app
“The most essential toolkit in every modern parent’s phone or computer is the Common Sense Media app. It’s free and it works on both iOS and Android devices. Every parent needs to have it. It reviews all types of media for children aged 0 to 18 years old. It reviews websites, apps, games, TV shows, newly released videos. It tells you about suitability and warns you about potentially upsetting scenes. So it at least forewarns you about what your child might be susceptible to.”
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