It’s amazing how easily our children can learn how to use sophisticated, smart digital devices such as the iPhone and iPad. As parents, we can take pride in the technology skills our children are developing while recognising the need for reasonable controls to prevent digital addiction.
Mr Wong, a Lorna Whiston parent of two, has found that digital devices enhance his children’s learning. “They remember things that they see and hear better, such as nursery rhymes, stories, and educational games,” he says. “Kids learn better when they enjoy the means in which the content is being delivered."
Still, Mr Wong and his wife, like most Lorna Whiston parents, have set clear ground rules for their children’s use of digital media. Even titans of the technology world, such as Apple founder Steve Jobs and Twitter co-founder Evan Williams, set limits on their children’s access to smart devices.
“I am totally for the idea of limiting time spent on smart devices for my children aged 3 and 7. Habits are formed very quickly especially at this tender age. If I don’t enforce it, my children will not be interested to read a book because it takes up too much effort!” says Mrs. Tabitha Lee, who has 2 kids, Isaac, 3 years and Jecolia, 7 years.
7 Ways to Reduce Digital Overuse by Your Child
- Limit screen time
Many parents don’t allow access to devices during the week, and most tend to limit screen time to 10-30 minutes per session. Set an alarm and take the device away when the time is up.
- Create “device free” zones
Experts strongly recommend banning devices during meals and close to bedtime. While letting your child watch a video may make car trips more peaceful, it’s better to turn off digital screens. Children learn from watching the scenery, breathing fresh air, and using their imagination.
- Replace screentime with other activities
Mr Wong has his children do puzzles, trace, draw, and colour, which are old school types of entertainment. "That helps to distract them from the devices". Mr Seet, another parent of two, also suggests encouraging conversation and other forms of play. “Sometime we do get into little struggles, but as parents we try our best to set the pace".
- Serve as a good role model
Children learn from their parents, so be aware of the example you’re setting. “You can’t punish your kids for breaking the rules when you can’t put your own devices down,” says Delaney Ruston, director of “Screenagers", a film about Internet addiction in teens.
- Use technology to regulate technology use
Install apps that limit your child’s data consumption and allow use only during certain times of the day. Look into the Someline Apple Tree App, which was developed by Singaporean students to encourage face-to-face interaction. The app rewards users with digital apples that “grow” when children set their phones down and do something else.
- Talk to your children about their device use
What are they doing on their smartphones? Why do they want to retreat into the digital world? Are they having problems at school? Is something in their lives causing stress? Overuse of smart devices can simply be a 21st century way of running away.
- Consider a “digital detox”
Occasionally, everyone can benefit from a digital cleanse vacation. In South Korea, parents can send Internet addicted teens to a 12-day boot camp where social activities and exercise replace screen time. In less severe cases, experts recommend families leave their devices at home and go out into nature together.
“It is never too late to introduce good habits and keep them off the smart devices. Distract them with lots of fun and engaging activities. Give them an experience that they will enjoy and this is always a first step to digital detox,” says Helen Marjan, CEO at Lorna Whiston.
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