Digital Detox: How to moderate children’s use of electronics.

Today’s contributing article is by Asmahan Saleh Khalil who is a Board Certified Behaviour Analyst at Base Kids with extensive experience working with children, their families, and schools on behaviour support, skill training, and Early Intensive Behaviour Intervention (EIBI) for Autism Spectrum Disorders. Through parent and teacher training as well as one-on-one therapy, Base Kids seeks to help you better understand behaviour and the different methods of intervention related to it.

We live in a world where everything is online and so easily connected at the touch of a button. Asmahan shares with su ways to get our kids (and us!) have a digital detox.
The screen, a personal best friend and parenting nightmare, simultaneously. As much as we try to keep our kids away from it, we must admit that its even hard for us to avoid ourselves.

Here are a few tips and tricks to tame the digital monster:

  1. The first trick is to change our view of technology as all negative. Just like all behaviors, we must encourage “healthy screen-time” habits from an early age, and with baby steps.

What we DO want is for our children to use these platforms as methods of:

  • Learning
  • Fine motor skills
  • Discovering new interests
  • Sharing ideas with the world
  1. Teach and encourage appropriate usage:

Instead of forbidding the Ipad completely, try to limit the amount of “mind-less” games, and pair the Ipad as the “Thing we go to when we want to learn cool stuff”. If your child asks you a question, that’s an excellent opportunity to open up YouTube and show him videos of what a “ volcano” is. Living abroad and missing grandma? Let use the Ipad to call her. Want to take a picture of mommy, use the iPhone’s camera, and learn about making memories.

  1. Set clear concrete rules:

This is challenging but necessary. Saying “don’t play too much on your Ipad” is as good as saying “balblablbal Ipad”. What does TOO MUCH really mean? For you it might be 1 hour, for them it’s most probably 24 hours. Use timers, alarms, or signals to prepare the child for getting off the Ipad, and telling him EXACTLY how much is too much. This would help take the control out of the parent’s hands and into the hands of time and rules.

  1. Earning screen-time for completing less preferred activities:

The Ipad can be a great end to a successful homework completion, or finishing up the chores, with a limited time of course. Some older children, like adults, are now using their phone for socialising with their friends. This can get time-consuming and interfere with other learning and discovery opportunities.

  1. Start by modelling and giving up the phone yourself:

Give attention to the children, get down on the floor, and play with them, leaving your phone behind for this quality time. Take it a step further and make everyone (including daddy the workaholic) to give u the phone for family meal times. Organise your conversations by using some common family conversation starters found here for example, instead of asking “how was your day?” and getting a “ its was fine” answer.

Finally, If all else fails…

Foster trust and keeping promises:

the app gods don’t agree and they have therefore created apps for monitoring and controlling the child’s Ipad or iPhone from the mothers Ipad or iPhone. With apps like Glued or Our Pact or Screenlimit you can control when your child can use the devices, for how long, and under what condition. Please leave this as last resort, if all else fails. Reinforce the child for compliance, and encourage creative play by being involved in it.