Category Archives: Screens

Protect Your Child From Cyber Bullying


November has an Anti Bullying Week! This is a time to bring focus to the pervasive issues that surround bullying. This year, Bullying UK is focused on cyber bullying. Many parents of teenagers, including myself, did not grow up in the world of social media. We are learning alongside our children skills like: online etiquette, privacy boundaries and the impact of a 24/7 spotlight on life.
The digital world can feel like a minefield for parents. We want to allow our children a space to be themselves without being overbearing. However, we also know how vulnerable they can be to predators, bullies and cultural influencers that may not be the best role models.

Here are just a few tips to help bully proof your children in the cyber world.

Graduate Their Privacy

Many parents feel that when they allow their children to have social media accounts, it’s an all or nothing. However, there are many steps that a parent can take to make sure their child is ready for the responsibility. Start on one platform where you are a friend. I would suggest making up a fake profile so that it is not obvious to your child’s other friends that their parent is on there. This way, you can keep an eye on what gets posted. If they have a video channel like YouTube or Musically, have a rule that you approve all videos before posting. Gradually, as they show responsibility, you increase their level of privacy.

Make Clear Rules and Boundaries Around Privacy Settings

This is an area where children become the most vulnerable. They love to collect followers and want as many as possible as social proof of their popularity. However, if they have no restrictions, the trolls will come calling. It is too easy to make a fake profile and become a cowardly abuser. Privacy restrictions bring accountability for users.

Teach the Power of a Platform

Trolls thrive on attention. If children engage with their hate speak, it gives them that attention. Teach your children the power of blocking, banning and reporting trolls. Starve the trolls of their attention and they will go eat elsewhere. Report the trolls and the powers that be will deal with the account. Dismissing them helps to take away the validity of everything that they say.

Talk About the Permanent Nature of the Internet

One of the biggest advocates for victims of bullying is Monica Lewinsky. Think what you will about her, but her life is a cautionary tale for knowing who to trust and what to keep private. Because she was recorded being chatty on the phone with a wolf in friend’s clothing, her life was changed forever. Flash forward to the cyber generation. Teens are posting and messaging private, intimate details and pictures to “friends” assuming that they will remain private, only to be horrified when those most intimate details are forwarded on to their entire year in a matter of seconds. People all over the world are losing employment and friends due to insensitive comments that they put in print years ago. Help your children by pointing out examples of all of this and constantly revisiting the conversation.

Self-Confidence is Their Biggest Weapon

Prevention is always more powerful than Intervention. Using Positive Parenting techniques to help your child grow up with a strong sense of self and an understanding and acceptance of values is the best way for them to become resilient. This is the best armor with which we can equip our children for battling bullying of any kind. They are less vulnerable when they define themselves rather than rely on others to define them.

Lead by Example

At Educating Matters, we know that a parent is a child’s first and most important teacher. They are watching you and learning from your actions. When you are able to effectively deal with trolls, limit what you post and behave with dignity online, they will learn to value those things as well. Show children from an early age how you edit and reword your posts. Ask your child’s permission before sharing a story or a possibly embarrassing picture. This will subtly share and bolster the values you have around making cyberspace as safe and positive as you can despite the choices of others around them.

Activities that make screen time interactive and educational

All parents know that dreaded feeling when kids are stuck inside due to rainy weather. Or when it’s the school holidays and there is nothing planned.  When they start to get cabin fever, it’s easy to let them hop on a device for entertainment, but what you really want is to keep them active and engaged, not zoned out. If you feel like you’re in a rainy-day rut, these online activities are sure to help you break out of it. These ideas get kids wiggling, creating, and having lots of fun all while learning at the same time.

Interactive Art

When kids are bored, they usually just need some inspiration to spark their imagination. Break out the art supplies and use the internet as a source of inspiration for new ways of creating. The Artful Parent helps you take art to another level, from lessons on technique to drawing prompts and activity sheets. Another great way to get their creative juices flowing that’s interactive is to play a drawing game. Art games are perfect for engaging multiple children, and they encourage bonding when mom and dad join in. For kids who want to explore different forms of art, art history, and art from around the world, check out the resources at Incredible Art.

Creative Movement and Music

One of the most difficult things about rainy days is getting kids to be active without running wild in the house. Online videos are the ideal solution to get kids off the couch and moving. Try an exercise video to build strength and balance while getting their energy out. Or your kids can groove to a variety of dance instruction videos, including classics like ballet and tap, along with some different ideas like hip hop or cultural dances from around the world.

Another fun option is to combine movement and music with imagination, all wrapped into one activity. That’s what Let’s Play Music does with classical music that’s perfect for fairy dancing (complete with dress-up costumes, of course!). This unique idea exposes kids to classical music, helping them develop an appreciation for it early by bringing it to life in your living room. You can also use the internet as a resource for free music lessons where kids can learn about rhythm and pitch and even learn to play an instrument.

High-Tech Pretend Play

Kids love pretend-playing grown-up jobs, whether it’s playing house, school, firefighter, or doctor. Pretend play is how kids explore their world, and it sows the seeds for dreaming of what they want to be when they grow up. Take their pretend play up a notch with interactive online games for exploring careers. For older kids, real estate lesson plans are great for bringing school subjects to life in real-world applications. According to Redfin, “Real estate is a complex field that requires skills in math, science, English, social studies and home economics. By incorporating real estate-based lessons into your curriculum, you can help students gain valuable skills in practical math application, presentation giving, forming a persuasive argument, earth science and so much more.”

Explore Cause and Effect

When kids want to do something fun and exciting, and you want them to do something educational, you can’t go wrong with a science activity. Set up your own science experiment, such as making a glass of “lava” from Earth Science Jr. These activities are easy to do with ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen, and they’re perfect for fostering an interest in science. Another idea for older kids is to use a rainy day as an opportunity to study weather. These Weather Watch activities from Scholastic walk you through weather tracking using the steps of the scientific method.


What kids may not know (it can be our secret!) is that these activities are as educational as they are fun. We sometimes think of screen time as being just TV shows or video games, but when you think outside the box, screen time can be a way to jump-start new ideas and exploration. Try these online tools the next time you need to shake things up.

Photo credit: Pixabay

Thanks to Jenny Wise

Is Fortnite Bad for the Teenage Brain? – JC Article

Read original article here

The screaming behind the door was frightening. Turned out the kids were just playing a game, shouting down the microphone excitedly to other online players. It went on for hours. The game was, I discovered, Fortnite Battle Royale, a free survival war game that had recently come out, and is now probably the most popular video game in the world.

Anyone with boys aged between around twelve and seventeen may too be despairing at how Fortnite has invaded their lives overnight, creating moody or zombie-like teens. Gamers are greeted with a rush of dopamine when they play, especially in the teenage years. The release of dopamine prompts the brain to crave more, thereby turning them into potential addicts.

The new game by Epic was launched as a standalone title, separate from the original Fortnite, which first came out last July. While the original cost money and was only available on PC, this later version is free and is available also on Xbox and PlayStation — hence the surge in popularity. Its overall player base has reportedly passed 45 million and that was before its recent launch in China. It is continuing to grow in popularity as developers introduce new content to the game including weapons, map locations and cosmetic items to keep players continuously interested, or rather, addicted.
This month Epic introduced Fortnite Season 4, its Twitter feed enticing gamers with the slogan “Brace for Impact”. Following its release, Immanuel College deputy head Beth Kerr, wrote to parents offering advice on how to handle the game.

She listed some of the some of the symptoms for parents to look out for, that indicated “a less than healthy relationship with gaming”.

These include:
Unusual preoccupation with the idea of getting back online to play;
Self-imposed isolation in order to guarantee uninterrupted play;
Feelings of irritability and restlessness when not playing games;
Lying about the amount of time spent gaming;
Persistent headaches caused by too much screen time;
Carpal tunnel syndrome caused by excessive use of gaming devices;
Diminished personal hygiene and poor diet;
Persistent fatigue due to lack of sleep.

Rachel Vecht is a parent of four, a teacher and consultant. She says gaming companies hire the very best neuroscientists to design games to be as stimulating and arousing as possible. There is also research that shows games can neurologically damage a young brain in the same way as cocaine. “The rush of adrenaline and dopamine they get from playing a game means reality becomes boring so kids can lose the ability to focus and even feel anxious or depressed.”

One of the commonly asked questions is how many screen hours should be allowed. “I am very reluctant to judge or be prescriptive to any family as each parent must do what they feel comfortable with, in line with their values. The number of hours permitted very much depends on the age and temperament of the child.”

Vecht believes that as parents we have a “fundamental responsibility” to understand and monitor our children’s behaviour online. That means teaching them how to “self-regulate” throughout their lives. “The best way to achieve this is through communication and connection rather than coercion and control.

“I advise parents to sit down together with their child and have an open conversation about what they use screens for, to establish some very clear screen rules/boundaries. This is the time to also determine what is the reward for keeping to the rules and the consequence for not.”

Jamie Rubin, a mother of three, is talking to educators and parents about ways to build children’s “digital resilience”. She is working on devising a cross communal plan — through a guidebook — for those kids, like her youngest child Eden, who will be starting secondary school in September.

“It is not just about educating children,” says Rubin. “It is well worth the investment for parents to learn more about the issues related to technology and screen time.

If many parents were on the same page it would really help with the battle screen addictions, social media, iphones, gaming etc.

“We can’t deny our kids access to cell phones and screens, like it or not it is part of ours and our children’s lives.”
“Creating healthy limits and habits are as important as communication and trust.”
“It is our responsibility as parents to make them as prepared as possible to use technology responsibly.”

Addicted to Fortnite – Sunday Telegraph article

Read full Telegraph article here

Help, my son’s addicted to Fortnite!

‘If he had his own way, he would be on the game for at least ten hours a day’

Ever since my 13-year-old son Alex began playing Fortnite, he has been stuck in his room for what feels like the best part of one.
The other night, I caught him smuggling in a takeaway; the prospect of breaking away from the tactical survival game, which he plays online with hundreds of strangers for hours on end, just to have dinner with his family, was unthinkable.

At weekends, with his sound-proof headphones on, he can stay in his bedroom all day, excitedly shouting instructions into the microphone.

When he emerges – usually around midday, having played into the night – he’s like a zombie. If he had his own way, he would be on the game for at least ten hours a day, stopping just for toilet breaks. Welcome to my new world.

I kick myself for ever letting him talk me into buying him a PlayStation PS4; Fortnite is available as a free download, hence its world-dominating popularity: “But it’s actually good,” he insists, “because it teaches you to be strategic.” I just want him to be strategic at doing homework.

Having started to mature into a diligent, ambitious child, Alex has turned overnight into the teenager I always dreaded bringing up. My son, I learnt last week, is a “gamer”.

I should be grateful he’s not roaming the streets at night with his friends, and that his zombiefication is happening somewhere I can keep watch. But his addiction to this one, all-consuming game fills me with horror. I fear he will soon claim squatters rights, saying he is entitled to play Fortnite whenever, forever.

I have sought professional advice; Rachel Vecht, from Educating Matters (, which offers parenting seminars in the home, tells me one of the most commonly asked question by parents in how to police a child’s screen-time – on their smartphone or at the gaming console.

“For most kids, banning screens altogether, or sleeping with the router under your pillow, is not the answer, just as I don’t recommend parents ban chocolates and sweets altogether. Kids tend to crave what they can’t have.” Besides, there will always be some new game or social media app that kids can become obsessed with. Before Fortnite, there was Minecraft and Pokemon Go.
“The question you should be asking is: do they have a healthy balance of time for other activities such as homework, socialising, exercise and being part of the family?”

At Vecht’s suggestion, I am implementing some new house rules.

Screentime (TV and phone) will be limited during holidays to four hours per day, no more than two hours in one go, and with an hour’s break in between. Playing stops one hour before bedtime, so Alex can “unwind”.

Advice for parents | How to protect your children from screen overuse

• Don’t use a digital babysitter. Babies and toddlers need a real caregiver, not a screen companion, to cuddle and talk with. There is no substitute for a real human being.
• Wait until your baby is two or three years old before they get screen time. And make a conscious decision about screen rules for them.
• Monitor your own screen time. Whether or not your children are watching, be aware of how much your television or computer is on at home – and how often you check your mobile phone in front of them.
• Ask your children about their real world day, but don’t forget to ask them about what’s happening in their cyber life.
• Don’t snoop or spy – studies show that children with overbearing parents just learn to be more secretive, and won’t turn to them when they run into trouble. In other words, be vigilant but not a vigilante.
• If you find inappropriate content, resist the urge to shut down or confiscate their device. You are depriving them of their entire support system. They need to reach out to friends. Let them.
• Finally, if anything goes wrong in their cyber life, tell them not to try to handle it on their own. That’s what parents are for.

On school nights, it’s half an hour on the phone, and just one hour on the PlayStation, and not unless all homework is complete. If this doesn’t work, then, after a warning, I will confiscate the screen from his bedroom. If that doesn’t work, I will get rid of the console.

I know other parents are equally despairing. One friend posted on Facebook: “I wish I never let my son have Fortnite. If I can spare someone else, please don’t do it!”

Nadine Wojakovski

How to stop your children turning into digital zombies during the school holidays

Read original article here

Laurel Ives
10 February 2018 • 9:00am

Today marks the start of the February half-term “holiday” for most parents, and once upon a time that holiday consisted of opening the back door and pushing older kids out of it to roam their local surroundings.

But now all the world is contained in a screen. From Snapchat to Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, games consoles and television, the lure of the phone, iPad and laptop is so potent that it has become a daily struggle for parents to get their kids to engage with anything beyond a selfie, snap or group chat.

Even when friends come round it’s common to find them lined up on the sofa staring at individual screens.

It’s such a headache that some parents turn a blind eye to teenagers lurking in their bedrooms, faces lit up blue. Screen time equals peace and quiet time for beleaguered mum and dad – and maybe even a moment to have a sneaky surf through social media themselves, or answer a work email.

Others deliberately seek out Wi-Fi free holidays to end the battles.

One friend told me that every half-term her family rents a cottage in Exmoor with an open fire and they all go for long walks with the dog; “It’s bliss as Exmoor has no Wi-Fi!” she said. Another recalled the time when the Wi-Fi broke in their holiday home. “The kids ended up playing Monopoly, cards and darts. We did quizzes. I think they may have even have had the odd conversation.”

Advice for parents | How to protect your children from screen overuse

• Don’t use a digital babysitter. Babies and toddlers need a real caregiver, not a screen companion, to cuddle and talk with. There is no substitute for a real human being.
• Wait until your baby is two or three years old before they get screen time. And make a conscious decision about screen rules for them.
• Monitor your own screen time. Whether or not your children are watching, be aware of how much your television or computer is on at home – and how often you check your mobile phone in front of them.
• Ask your children about their real world day, but don’t forget to ask them about what’s happening in their cyber life.
• Don’t snoop or spy – studies show that children with overbearing parents just learn to be more secretive, and won’t turn to them when they run into trouble. In other words, be vigilant but not a vigilante.
• If you find inappropriate content, resist the urge to shut down or confiscate their device. You are depriving them of their entire support system. They need to reach out to friends. Let them.
• Finally, if anything goes wrong in their cyber life, tell them not to try to handle it on their own. That’s what parents are for.

Yet if the Wi-Fi is working (and, let’s be honest, there are few places where it isn’t), there are ways to restore tech balance that don’t involve an unrealistic total ban. Increasingly parents are realising that limiting tech is a good idea as the negatives of phone use continue to stack up: from neck strain to weight gain to a decline in empathy, concentration and conversation skills learned from time spent actually face-to-face with others.

Anya Kamenetz is the digital education correspondent for National Public Radio in America, and her new book, The Art of Screen Time: How Your Family Can Balance Digital Media and Real Life, is published this month. “What you want to avoid is kids getting into the zombie zone, mindlessly consuming show after show and game after game so that when you turn it off you get this explosive reaction because they’ve been overstimulated.”

Too much screen time can leave teenagers overstimulated CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES

Instead Kamenetz recommends finding creative ways to use technology together. “Try to bring screens back into the shared space. Let’s say you watch a video together and learn the dance routine in the video and practise it together, the screen becomes part of the game.

“Or you’re going to bake cookies, so you find some tutorials on YouTube, you make the cookies together, and then you might even upload a video of yourselves making them. Maybe you’re going on a trip and you research a great video to watch that you will all talk about after. The goal is to hijack the fascination with the screen to explore an interest or activity together.”

Kamenetz feels parents are suffering from a lot of free floating, but sometimes misplaced anxiety around their children and the world of tech. “If your kid is in their bedroom on Snapchat, what is that really doing? Is it interfering with their sleep, or are their real world relationships not as strong?

“These are big issues, but the vast majority of kids are probably doing just fine. Social media doesn’t necessarily have to derail their lives. Be careful, talk to them and observe them.”

Negotiating the new world of screens then is about finding sensible limits, and making sure it doesn’t take over our lives. Build in some sacred screen-free moments, like at the dinner table or when you’re driving.

Many of the most important conversations I’ve had with my children have been behind the wheel of the car. Or find some shared family activities.

Thrill seekers: get out into nature CREDIT: TREE TOP TREK

I was surprised by how many of my friends cited family board games night as a way to have fun together. Says Claudia Courtis: “We play board games that are actually quite fun even for parents. I can recommend: Forbidden Island, Exploding Kittens, Code Names, Pass the Bomb, Qwirkle, Star Wars Labyrinth, Rummikub and Ticket to Ride. It boils down to giving the kids attention, offering to do something with them, being available, which is all quite hard to do when you’re keeping an eye on work emails at the same time.”

Unfortunately as parents we are also caught up in a muddle of work and social media on our phones ourselves – even when on holiday – and it’s tempting to use the kids screens as a babysitter. Rachel Vecht, a former teacher, mother of four and founder of Educating Matters, which provides seminars and courses in parenting skills, says what’s important here is modelling.

“Eighty percent of parenting is modelling. If you’ve said no screens at the table that includes your quick email to work, as whatever your child is doing is as important to them as our agenda is to us. We have to acknowledge that, and it helps children feel we understand them.”
Vecht believes in writing a screen contract in advance of the school holidays with incentives that everyone in the family has agreed to stick to. It’s enough to send your average adult phone addict into a panic.

“This half-term we are not going anywhere and lots of my kids friends are away, so I will sit down with them and explain that I understand they will want to be on their screens some of the time, but that we need to allocate times and brainstorm what else we are going to do, and come up with some ideas based on their passions. It’s about setting it up in advance, so that it’s all agreed. If you’re working during half-term then sit down with whoever is looking after your children too and make sure they understand the contract.”

Which is not to say that it is entirely the responsibility of parents to entertain their children. We seem to have created a world where children are so scheduled with extra curricular activities that they have lost the ability to potter happily about at home without the television or phone, and find amusement on their own.

One of the aims of organisation The Wild Network is to bring back this sense of free natural play and encourage children to spend more time outdoors in nature. When they surveyed parents to discover what barriers stood in the way of their children going outside, screen time was the number one issue they cited.

At a glance | Screen-time rules around the world

•UK guidelines, set out by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE), recommend no more than two hours’ leisure screen time per day for children of any age.
•In the US, it is recommended that under-twos should have no screen time at all. Thereafter, the maximum amount of leisure screen time should be two hours per day.
•In France, it is illegal to market TV shows specifically at under-threes.
•In Taiwan, parents are legally obliged to monitor children’s screen time. They are fined £1,000 if they are found to be letting an under-18 have a screen for hours at a time.

Says Mark Sears, chief wild officer: “The evidence is really strong now that time in nature and outdoors supports children’s well-being in lots of different ways, and not only because it encourages them to be active. It also gives them tools to survive in the 21st-century like resilience, being resourceful, communication skills. This is not a historic sense of how we want children to be. Those softer skills support the whole child to thrive in the modern world.”

Yet rather than try to ban the technology standing in the way, The Wild Network has used it to effect change by building an app, The Wild Explorer, with fun ideas for outdoors activities ranging from 20 minutes, to day-long expeditions, organised by age.

“We’re using our apps to give parents little hacks and ideas for outdoor time. In the February half-term it’s cold, so this is not necessarily the moment for big expeditions. Start with a short bike ride or bird spotting in your local area. Even in our cities you can find something wild.”

And wherever you are, whether it’s the mountains of a ski resort or your local park, pause and take a moment to enjoy it, before you feel the need to document it with a photo or post.

As Dr Linda Papadopoulos, a psychologist, says: “If you see a mountain climb it first, then photograph it. It’s about finding balance.” Ultimately the world of tech is in its adolescence, and in a sense we are all stumbling through its maze, trying to find a path through it.

Kamenetz likens the digital revolution to the car industry in its infancy. “When people first got cars they didn’t have speed limits, and stop signs and seat belts. Gradually people learned, but it took a decade to make cars safer and we’re at the very beginning of that transformation.”

We’re not there yet, but screens are not cigarettes; we don’t need a total ban, just to set some limits and boundaries. Still roaming, but in a smarter way.


Boredom Busters

Assuming you don’t want your children on screens the whole time (especially over the school holidays), the reality is they may need some ideas of what to do instead.

See vlog here for inspiration

Ironically (despite trying to encourage our kids off screens) there is endless inspiration online for what children can do when they are not on screens.

The team at ‘Habyts’ have put together a whole section of fun things children can do.  Very helpfully it is categorised by age group, activity type, length of time and whether the children are playing independently or with an adult.  They have really thought of everything!!!

Best ideas from ‘Habyts’ for screen free activities

Habyts – a great screen time solution

I am very excited to share with you news of a great screen time solution that came onto the market towards the end of last year.  The founders are parents to 3 boys and struggled greatly with making screen time work in their own family.  They did not feel that any of the vast myriad of apps and controls on the market fully provided what they needed to manage screens so they worked extremely hard to come up with a solution.

As a mother of 4, I can honestly say this is the best product I have come across.  So much thought has gone into it, taking into account many of the common challenges such as:

  • getting kids off screens
  • ending homework distractions
  • filtering inappropriate content
  • motivating kids
  • transitioning from a screen to another activity
  • getting your child into productive habits

‘Habyts’ is simple to set up, easy to use, works on multiple devices, has separate study and playtime modes, helps with chore management, motivates kids with rewards and provides reports for parents on your child’s activity.

Link to HABYTSMATTERS Promo code with a 10% discount after a free trial

Habyts outline with further information 

Keeping children ‘safe’ online

This week schools and organisations got together to celebrate ‘Safer Internet Day’. It is a fantastic global initiative if it gets the conversation going and raises awareness about using technology responsibly and respectfully.

Whilst there are endless apps and extensive parental controls and filters for all different devices and gadgets, these are by no means 100% effective to keep your children ‘safe’. They are no substitute for talking to your children regularly about responsible internet use and establishing clear boundaries.

It amazes me how many parents would not let their children go out alone as it is deemed ‘unsafe’ but they often allow young children to have hours of unmonitored access to the internet where they could potentially be in far more danger in their own home.

It can feel very overwhelming to keep up with technology and how children are using it. The reality is in almost all families, the children will be one step ahead of their parents and very adept at getting around filters and parental controls if they are really determined to do so.

As parents we have a fundamental responsibility to teach our children self-regulation so they don’t grow up with technology controlling them. This can’t happen through control. One father I know admitted to sleeping with the router under his pillow to keep it from the clutches of his teen! Banning and blocking doesn’t work – the children will crave technology even more and most of them as they get older will need it to complete homework. Constant nagging, shouting, repeating, criticising and reminding is not effective either!

The key is to communicate and connect regularly with empathy and understanding so parents and children can find solutions that work for their individual family. Most kids left to their own devices simply can’t handle the allure of screens without some agreed limits and rules.

How can you handle screens and keep your children safe?

We need to understand and monitor our children’s behaviour online, just as we understand and monitor what they are doing in the physical world.

1.  Be clear about what they are using screens for and how those games, apps, social media platforms work. Connect in a positive way so you understand and talk about their favourite things to do on the internet.

2.  Get a realistic sense of how long in total both you and your children are spending on screens per day. Keep a digital diary for one week – you may be shocked or pleasantly surprised.

3.  Set some achievable goals for managing screens. For some families it may be an issue of cutting down on use, for others it may be reducing the nagging or helping your child find other things to do.

4.  Involve your child in creating some clear boundaries or a family agreement around the use of screens and write it down. These rules should include:

· What they can use screens for? (Depending on the age of your child, you may need to be very specific about which apps/sites/games they can use)
· Where screens can be used? (Always advisable to have tech-free zones like the kitchen table, bedroom or the car)
· How long they can spend on screens each day? (Are they getting enough of a balance of other activities and downtime/unstructured play)
· When are the times they can be used? (Agree on a schedule for each day, including homework, extracurricular activities, chores, seeing friends etc.)

5.   Agree in advance the rewards for keeping to the rules and the consequences for not.

6.  Most importantly (and equally the hardest part) be consistent and follow through with positive acknowledgement (descriptive praise) when they get things right and empathy (emotion coaching) when they don’t.

7.  Brainstorm other things you can do when you are not using a screen.

How Can I Get the Kids Away from their Screens on Holiday?

Read the original article in ‘Family Traveller’

As a former teacher, mother of four and working as a parent educator for the last 16 years, the whole issue of managing screen time is one I get asked about an awful lot.

Skiing over February half term was far and away one of the best bonding family holidays I can remember. In large part due to the lack of screens. We were out with the kids (aged seven–15) on the mountains all day and had extremely limited Wi-Fi back in the chalet. We came home incredibly refreshed and connected as a family.

There is no point totally banning screens or demonising them as they have become such an essential part of our everyday lives. However, it is a parent’s responsibility to teach children to manage screen use responsibly and learn self-regulation.

Top tips for a successful digital detox:

1. Agree screen rules/limits before the holiday

Rules should include how long everyone can spend on screens, where and when they can be used, what for etc. Listen to how your child feels, what they want and explain your views and concerns. Reach a compromise and put the rules in writing. Clear rules are empowering as children then know what to do and ultimately develop good habits.

2. Establish rewards and consequences for following the rules

At the same time as creating the rules, you also need to agree on the reward for keeping to them and the consequence for not. Ask your children for ideas as they may come up with suggestions you would never have thought of.


How about making the car a screen-free zone?

3. Determine specific screen-free times

In our family, we have a rule of no screens during a family meal or travelling in a car as these moments provide great opportunities for conversation. You also may like to introduce the idea of screen-free days or one day off and one day on.

4. 80% of parenting is modelling

All the rules apply to parents too. If your family rule is no screens in a restaurant, it’s not ideal to be hiding your mobile under the table to send a quick email to the office. Your child’s agenda is as important to them as your agenda is to you.

5. Don’t take screens on holiday

Last summer going through security when we took all electrical devices out of the hand luggage, I was quite shocked to count the number of screens in various guises that a family of six with two teenagers were travelling with. On subsequent holidays we have cut back. If the iPad or laptop isn’t even with them on holiday they can’t argue about using it!


Plan exciting activities and screens will be the last thing on their minds

6. Find things to do instead

Brainstorm what children can do instead if they are not occupied by an activity or trip and it’s also supposed to be screen-free time. Many children (and adults) are simply at a loss as to how to keep themselves occupied without a screen. Plan activities that all the family can enjoy together.

7. Keep a digital diary

Parents are often surprised to discover that they are on their screens more than their children. I just recently added an app onto my phone which tots up my daily usage. You could set up a family competition where the person who uses the phone least over the whole holiday gets a prize!

8. Choose an active holiday

Intentionally choose a holiday where you know children will be kept busy and won’t have time for screens. Probably the hardest type of holiday to limit screen use is a relaxing beach/pool holiday as there isn’t always a great deal to do.

9. Unplugged destinations

We once went to a hotel in the Caribbean that was described as being a ‘Hemmingway retreat’ with no TV, no room service and no Wi-Fi. It ended up being the most relaxing holiday we have ever experienced. I have sent my older children to residential camps where they were only allowed their phones once a week to call home.


A good book can make all the difference

10. Find the right book

Instilling in children a genuine love of books is one of the greatest gifts a parent can give a child. A family holiday away from a packed weekly schedule, friends, school, homework and extra-curricular activities provides the perfect opportunity for some more extended reading. The key is finding ‘The Right Book’.

With a well thought through, consistent approach and ‘united front’ between parents it is possible to enjoy a family holiday really connecting without arguing about screens!