How to Prevent Gadget Overuse in Children
As a parent, I want my child to grow up with the knowledge and skills that will help her, and using technology seems to be part of the skill set that she needs. Although technology paved the way to amazing advancement in numerous fields, its addictive effects have become a growing concern. Many children (and adults) have squandered their time on games and apps. I do not intend to argue about whether technology use in children is good or bad. I have seen how helpful it is in education, research, and almost every aspect of our lives. On the other hand, I can understand how it can ruin lives when one is on their device too much. Rather, I hope to help parents prevent gadget overuse in their children.
Spend meaningful time with your child
It is convenient for parents to just play a DVD or stream a video online, but parents need to dial this down. Children, especially toddlers, still have rudimentary cognitive skills. As such, processing information from media found online may prove to be less beneficial than that of actual interactions with the parent. Toddlers and young children’s symbolic cognitive processing will benefit greatly when there is an adult explaining and interacting with the child as compared to being a passive receiver of information. Moreover, socio-emotional development will also improve when there is actual interaction.
The more you spend meaningful time with your child, the less he/she will choose gadgets over you. Although the gadgets can really keep the child engaged for a considerable amount of time, creating the bond between parent and child is more beneficial.
Instead of playing on their gadgets do creative art works like:
- Read books together
- Cook together
- Do pretend play with your child
- Talk about how your child’s day went
- Make plans for a weekend getaway and do it
There are more meaningful ways to spend time with your child. The most important thing is to make time for them. Do not let gadgets replace good parenting.
Limit your child's use of gadgets
My daughter operated the DVD player when she was just 2 years old. She changed the DVD, used the remote control with ease and it was fascinating. Now she navigates the IPad better than me. However, there was a time when almost every waking hour was spent either feeding and buying dresses for Talking Angela or gathering gold in talking Tom Gold Run. Spending too much time with their gadgets or streaming videos online is a concern many parents also have. The immediate course of action was to limit the use of her gadgets.
By limiting the use of their gadgets, children will be more responsible for their own actions. They know how long they can play and they know that they should stop afterwards.
- You can limit their play time using apps or settings of the gadgets
- Lock your internet connection for a period of time
- Give them schedules
- Keep their gadgets and ask them to get it and return it to you
The actual amount of time spent on their gadget may vary. Younger children should have more time playing in order to improve their gross motor and fine motor development. Socio-emotional development can also improve when they play with other children. On the other hand, many schools now adapt technology as part of their teaching strategies. Activities, collaborative work and even assignments utilize technology and online presence. For these cases, limiting it to school work and perhaps a little more for some gaming is prudent.
Make your child do something else
Preventing gadget overuse in children necessitates having other means to express themselves and to use to relax. More than just taking away something that your child wants you must offer something more relevant and more beneficial.
Alternatives like sports, art activities, music lessons, and anything that does not involve fiddling around with their phones, tablets, laptops or whatever gadgets they have.
Here are some of the less welcomed alternatives:
- Make them do their homework or even advance reading (for older children)
- Assign household chores—my daughter is assigned to water some of the plants at home
- Make them clean their room
These may be accepted with less resistance:
- Go to the mall, park or somewhere with you (works best with food involved)
- Let them have a playdate with friends or cousins
- Visit their grandparents
- Take them window shopping for their next birthday/Christmas or whatever event gift
The integral part of making them do something else is to let them explore. Make them understand that there is more to life than their gadgets. Going unplugged is not a punishment but an opportunity for the child to discover.
Having a routine or a schedule will help you get them to disconnect with their gadgets. While they take a break from their wired life, you can build responsibility and accountability by assigning tasks. Moreover, by letting them explore other aspects of their life, they may discover their calling for creativity, music and movement or some other activity other than using their gadgets.
Do you have a schedule for your child's gadget use?
The wise use of gadgets can make our lives easier. However, with its misuse, we can expect more problems. Parents need to step up and take on an active role in our child’s lives especially in the use of gadgets. Preventing gadget overuse takes immediate action – NOW. Do not wait when the problem already exists. By taking measures right now, we can prevent our kids from being consumed by this meaningless use of their time.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.