Kids Digital Detox
Are you feed up with your kids spending all their time on screens? Does it bug you that you can no longer have meaningful conversations with your kids or even spend some time having fun with them? You are actually not alone. 60% of parents in the US feel that their kids spend too much time on their electronic gadgets. The sad truth is that today’s kids are controlled by their technology and they are not in charge at all. You cannot really blame them because today’s digital world is characterized by an increasing number of screens, be it the TV, smartphones, computers, laptops and tablets.
Technology has also been used as a learning tool and basically the center of every aspect of your life. It has been associated with many benefits like enhanced learning that helps to develop skills and talents, improved concentration, growing confidence and higher self-esteem, enhanced social interaction skills, helps improve communication skill, the list is endless. Again, while your kids are busy playing those games on the tablet or chatting with their friends on Instagram, you are secretly relieved as it gives you some time to run your errands around the house; the perfect babysitter, right?
Honestly speaking, you can’t avoid screens and as a matter of fact, you should not avoid them. The electronic connection is a necessary evil in this daily evolving digital world. A study at the University of Oxford suggests that screen time can enhance the overall well being of your teenagers but only if spent in moderation. This is what digital detox is all about for your kids. It is about helping them stop using their phone, computer, TV, gaming console and other technology devices for a set amount of time. It is all about helping them find a healthy balance with their devices.
WHY DO YOUR KIDS NEED DIGITAL DETOX?
Many parents and studies have reported that excessive technology use leads to increased behavior problems and gets in the way of responsibilities, not forgetting the many fights over devices in the house, like whose turn it is to play or who gets the remote or whose choice of a cartoon to watch. Digital devices have definitely made things easier, but the big question is have they made people become holistically better? Have they demonstrated healthier body, mind, and spirit, especially for our kids?
Some studies have associated screen time with sleep problems which can lead to impulsive behavior and reduced emotional regulation, social problems,and increased aggression.Research that was conducted at UCLA reported that unplugging improved the ability of kids to read and understand the emotional expression of others. Unplugging from time to time helps kids improve their social skills which in turn help in behavior management. When kids understand how others feel, they are able to adjust their behavior accordingly.
A digital detox has been found to improve relationships with friends and family, better sleep habits, better-eating habits, an increased focus at school or work, boosted self-esteem, heightened independence and to reduced stress and anxiety.
HOW TO HELP YOUR KIDS DIGITALLY DETOX
- Let them understand why you are doing this.
Without a doubt, kids will definitely rebel towards your interference in their addiction to technology. However, you should talk to them, whether they understand it or not, explaining why you have to limit their time on digital devices. Let them feel and know that you love them and that you are doing it for their own good. Let them know that you not only want them to be healthy but also successful in school and be able to build healthy relationships with their friends. Always maintain a close emotional connection.
- Set limits
One of the most crucial things to help you fight this addiction and to help prevent its occurrence in the future is to restrict the time spent on the screens for your child. Experts advise you tolimit time spent with entertainment technology and only allow age-appropriate media content. Absolute bans on the digital devicesare a terrible idea and are not practical at all. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines, your children’s time should be limited to less than one to two hours per day. This is basically anything that involves a screen and is not related to academics; including computers, laptops, iPods, TV, gaming, social networking, and the list is endless. It is always a good starting point to talk to your child about it to make them understand why they need to be off the electronic gadgets. The point is to make sure that you do not become an enemy as this will not yield any results. Be sure to discuss the new rules during a family meeting and in a very positive manner.
While on the digital detox, make sure that all devices are switched off and stored in their respective areas when the screen time is up. For older kids who need to have cell phones, you could teach them how to manage their time on the phone. Being in front of a TV or any digital device for that matter puts your kid’s brain into a passive mode. So, when setting the screen time let it be in the afternoon after they are exhausted with other outdoor and creative activities. Morning hours should be set aside for creative activities since the kids’ brains are sharper then. Also, make sure to do the screen time at intervals of, for example, 30min.
- Provide fun alternatives
When kids are bored or when they want to avoid doing things that they do not want to do, they will definitely reach out for their devices. Technology always lures them to keep glued to the screen. For today’s kids, digital devices are the most pleasurable activities in their life. Instead of withdrawing the devices, you should provide your kids with alternatives. It can be more fun to add new activities to their schedules than taking away their devices. That way, it will be less of a fight and you will experience less resistance. Create time with the family to brainstorm and come up with activities that your kids will enjoy and will look forward to trying them out. Even before you limit technology, a fun-filled day reduces screen time. There are so many alternatives to electronic devices that you can offer to your kids that will ensure you they don’t miss out on childhood fun and the creative learning.
1. Encourage outdoor play.
There is so much you could do with your kids out on the lawn. Studies have suggested that playing in the grass improves attention span and reduces stress, improved problem-solving skills, creative thinking, and safety skills among other benefits. Playing outside releases energy and can help kids be calmer and less active when indoors. You could get competitive simple games like swimming, cycling, board games, bike riding etc.
Watching a funny movie at the theatre or even attending a music concert could be a great disruption from their regular screens. Remember, the rule here is to keep it fun and interesting so they will opt for it on their own. Remind them to take that pet, that they love so much, out for a walk.
2. Reconnect with nature
Kids love being in nature, they always feel some deep connection with it. Inspire them to go out there and discover the wonders of the natural world. It has its own way of opening your heart and calming your mind. Follow that nature trail with them and it will a sure way of bonding with your kids. They will very easily forget that you are taking away their favorite activity – screens.
3. Organized sports
Encourage them to play with their friends. Talk to other parents, you could have one parent watch over them as they hold their small tournament. Organized sports are a great team building activity for kids and more importantly, they get the kids moving. They also help build other social skills for your kids.
4. Do road trips and travels
A road trip will definitely excite them. Just remember to make them part of the planning process and remember the rules, no electronic device on the trip. That’s the ultimate goal. Go out and explore different cultures and meet new people. It doesn’t have to be an expensive affair. Keep it within your budget so that you can also look forward to it.
Whether it is a weekend long trip or just a day, you and your kids could do a lot for the preparations without involving screens. You could use a traditional map to find a route or an old travel book. Be sure to make it fun by when telling them that’s how you grew up doing it, of course, they will laugh at you. Be sure to ask for their opinion in all this.
5. Have assigned chores.
Kids are often interested in what goes on around the house. You could use this as an opportunity to teach them some life skills. The point is to keep their mind occupied. Getting them to chip in with the house chores is great for both of you. Let them make their beds, fold their clothes or even sort out laundry. You could also teach them how to cook by having each member host the rest of the family for dinner, and the one who prepares the best meal gets a reward, which in this case should not be screen time.
- Create screen free spaces
If you can’t find junk food in the house, then it is very easy to avoid it. The same case applies to electronic devices for your kids. It is a good idea to set asidea charging point for all electronic devices in the house. When not in use, all of them should be switched off and put at this point. At night as you go to sleep and during family mealtime, all the phones should be put at this point. As a rule of the thumb, make sure that there are no phones during dinner and no one goes to bed with their phone. This is to encourage good conversation over family meals time and to ensure kids get good sleep respectively.
Also, remember that all electronic devices should be switched off an hour before bed. Looking at screens an hour or so before bedtime interferes with melatonin production – the hormone that induces sleepiness thus making it harder to sleep. Studies have shown that a lot of childhood obesity could be as a result of lack of sleep. Tired and grumpy children tend to crave sweets and sugar. For the sake of their health, you have to do it.
- Encourage imagination and creativity
Being always glued to social media and electronic devices hinders the development of creativity, critical thinking, and imagination for your kids. During these times, their brains are in a passive state. So, when you get them off the screens, help them to be imaginative; you want to give them challenges to get creative and activate their brains. It is also a great opportunity to explore their talents and hobbies. Encourage them to draw and get actively involved in sports. Let kids build their own games, mazes or fort. These are also great times to keep the family connected and as a result, get the kids out of their social media addiction.
- Do not do it alone.
It is always good to involve other people who interact with your kids, be it their friends, grandparents, or their friends’ parents. This sort of creates a support system for them to fall back on when things get rough. Digital devices tend to easily draw attention for kids and so when you introduce healthier and outdoor options, which at first will be perceived as boring, you will face so much resistance. You will definitely need help from other parent figures around your kid, with whom you must agree on the set plan. If you do not agree on this, then this will be doomed to fail as your kids will seek sympathy from the lenient parent figures.
It is a good idea to discuss with friends, neighbors and relatives about getting the kids to indulge in outdoor activities in the hope of reducing screen time. Have this discussion as a community and come up with plans to support the outdoor activities like organized sports for the kids. The community approach will improve your chances of succeeding because if your child finds out that their peers are doing it, they will also be encouraged to do it as well.
- Be patient.
Change definitely takes time. With kids, you have to be very persistent. According to behavior experts, it can take two months or more for new habits to become a behavior. It may take even four or more months for kids who have totally lost interest in other hobbies or those that have always had the technology. However, the expected outcome is worth the wait.
Letting your kids spend time on their devices is an easy way to get some time off babysitting, but is definitely not the best decision for your kids. The moment you cut off the screen time, a lot of challenges will definitely come up. It will certainly get messy but be patient and strong and stick to your guns. They will surely thank you later.
- Monitor progress and give awards.
To help your child succeed in the digital detox, make sure you set milestones. Setting a goal, monitoring progress, and rewarding accomplishments is key to achieving success. Rewards should be fun for the child but remember it should not be screen time; just anything else that your child will look forward to.
- Lead by example.
You are the role models in your home. Therefore, you cannot preach water and drink wine. You have to set a good example when it comes to digital detox. As a parent, you have to model these healthy behaviors – a balance of quality family time, work, exercise, and spiritual involvement, exposure to nature, hobbies or relaxation.
Kids learn more by observation rather than listening to mare words. If as a family you decide to keep phones away during meal times, this rule will apply to all the household members and not the kids only. This will encourage the kids to adopt the healthy and happy living. Otherwise, don’t whine at your child for having their phone while you are busy scrolling on yours!
- Encourage them.
You love your children and you are doing this because you want them to lead a healthy lifestyle. It is therefore very frustrating when they do not make healthy choices for themselves.In most cases, parents tend to get into a cycle of repeating advice. As a result, kids can always predict negative criticism from you, which results in more conflict and as a result a lot of tension in the house.It is advised that you show empathy and always point out that which your kids are doing right, as opposed to what they are not doing. This empathetic approach helps your kids to build trust in you and be more collaborative.
By the end of the day, consistency is everything.You will do more harm than good if you become lenient and start making exceptions. Being consistent in sticking to these rules helps your kids to trust you and to follow you safely. As a result, a healthy child, with a perfect life balance.
SIGNS THAT YOUR KIDS NEED A DIGITAL DETOX
It is rather obvious that too much time on the screens could lead to some behavioral, emotional, and academic problems. According to studies, an average child spends seven to ten hours on electronic devices. If the only thing that your child finds entertaining is in electronics or if you always get into fights and power struggles over them then it is absolutely necessary to give your child some unplug time. This will give them an opportunity to explore other interesting activities in the outside world. Also, if it has become a family tradition to have dinner while watching television, sleep with phones and tablets next to you in bed, or worse still texting each other from the next room instead of having one on one conversation then it is about time that you and your family unplugged and get to spend some time together without any involvement of electronic devices.
As a parent, you should ensure your family has established clear rules about technology use that are consistent, fair, and in line with their values. Implementing the new pattern helps your children work on their internal desire to be more productive which results in increased self-esteem. It will also change the Childs’ default setting of technology as the only source of pleasure and entertainment and encourage them to make fun in other activities.
In this modern day, children have so many electronic devices to choose from. As a result, they spend little time in outdoor play, nature or even exploring their hobbies and talents. Parents are constantly faced with the challenged to reduce their kids’ screen time. However, it is their job to help them know when to switch off from the digital world and find that life balances. If you can start by gradually substituting the screen time with other activities and adding the fun, then you can lead your kids into rediscovering the beauty of being offline.