Are you constantly fighting, trying to get your kids off their devices? It’s a problem that most modern parents are familiar with – but we have 5 easy ways to help you turn the dreaded screen time into quality time to benefit your child.
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Do you find your kids are playing with their phone or tablet all day long, aren’t interested in much that does not take place on a screen, and every attempt to get them to do something else leads to a big fight?
Our proposed solution is simple: stop fighting, start leveraging. In other words, if you can’t get them off their devices, get them to use the devices for something that helps them learn and builds important real-life skills.
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Why is Screen Time So Important to Kids?
For our generation, which is often called the “digital immigrants”, it can be difficult to understand how kids can be so attached to the screen. But try to see it from their point of view – there is so much happening, and it’s incredibly interesting.
Nowadays, mobile devices have long exceeded the computing power of the first spacecrafts, the ones that brought the first people on the moon! The device offers access to entertainment in the form of videos, pictures and games, information, communication with friends, and so much more. The possibilities really are endless.
And as unnatural as their behaviour may seem to you sometimes, it is more than natural: kids want to have fun, kids are endlessly curious and, although they would never admit it, they want to learn and discover new things every day. So why stop them? You can actually help them – direct them towards content that really helps them progress and learn.
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Make Screen Time Productive in 5 Easy Steps
#1. Find Out What Exactly They Do
Persuading someone to change their behaviour, especially kids, usually starts with showing that you understand what they do and that you are interested in it.
So go and have a look. Find out what it is that your kid is so interested in and what that could tell you about your child. Does s/he play Minecraft all day long, a game that works a bit like digital LEGO, where you can build your own world using different blocks? That might tell you that your kid is an explorer, or has a creative streak. Does s/he watch YouTube videos? Try to find out about what exactly, and what amazes them about the people they watch. Once you know what drives them, it will be much easier to get them to listen.
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#2. Join Them
Once you know what it is that is so fascinating for them, join them. Watch a video, or try their game for 10 minutes. A number of the games your child is playing are ones which you can’t quit at any time because you will lose your whole progress – so taking the game out of their hands in the wrong moment can therefore be very frustrating for them. If you have a look at what they’re doing or playing, you will be able to avoid pitfalls like this and establish a much more harmonious relationship.
Joining your kids in what they like to do is a crucial step in getting them to join you in the activities you want to engage in with them. This is especially true for families who struggle with creating enough shared family time and experiences.
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#3. Set Some Screen Time Rules
Establishing rules, communicating these rules clearly, and sticking to them is key in any aspect of raising a child – and just as essential with screen time. Once you have discovered what your kids are doing, and have experienced it alongside them, you can start setting rules for what you think is okay and what is not.
These rules can include the programs they use, the games they play, the channels they watch, the time span involved, and you can also easily tie it to other aspects of their life, such as doing their homework before any screen time.
If you don’t (yet) fully trust your children with what they do on their device when you are not watching, you can also try to find an online instruction on how to change the child protection measures of your home wi-fi. It usually is quite simple to set up, and there you can block certain websites or those that contain certain keywords or elements.
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#4. Encourage Some New Interests
This one is the game-changer (pun intended). You have understood, you have communicated, you have set up rules. Now it is up to you to direct them towards software that they can discover for themselves, establish an interest in, and that will help them learn without them knowing.
One recommendation would be the resources by CleverBooks, a Dublin-based education tech company that provides educational apps and material based on 3D visualisation (also called Augmented Reality technology).
The apps are free to download from the usual app stores, and make use of paper-based resources that are targeted by a camera. Once the software recognises the ‘marker’, a digital image is shown which kids can interact with.
The augmented reality map of the world is brilliant fun (and educational!) as kids can learn about the geographical differences of all the continents, famous landmarks and cultural aspects, varying weather, plants and animals, as well as a lot more.
See a sample of how it works here:
With EdTech software like this, kids can develop many essential real-life skills, such as thinking in 3D. There are many apps like this on the market, and I suggest you try to find some that suit your child’s individual strengths and interests.
Let’s face it, kids want to play and not learn – so how you introduce this to your child is crucial. You may choose to give it to them as a gift, relate it to other apps that you know your child is interested in, and give them some time to find their own approach. No kid wants to play “learning games”, so avoid words like that. However, with the right approach, getting your child interested in science, geography, biology or even geometry (yes, really!) can be child’s play – literally!
#5. Sit Back and Watch
Okay, let’s look back for a moment. Up until now, what have you achieved?
- You understand better what your child is doing when they are on their devices.
- You understand why they might be so interested in it and have identified potential strengths and behavioural patterns you can support.
- You have set up rules and an agreed framework that is based on mutual appreciation, interest and respect.
- You have entered your child’s world and provided your input in the form of software that they will potentially learn to love and become very excited about – and which actually contributes to their personal growth and learning.
In this process, you have built the basis for turning screen time into quality time with real-life relevance. Now watch and see what your children like and what they don’t like, and start reinforcing and supporting positive developments as soon as they happen.
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What are your approaches to managing screen time? Do you face ‘screen time’ problems with your kids? Leave a comment below and let us know – we’d love to hear from you!