Category Archives: Screens

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.

little-girl-in-boot-of-car-ready-to-go-on-holiday

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!

Kayak-Tours-Anna-Maria-Island

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.

mother-and-daughter-reading-book-on-a-doc-by-the-lake

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!

 

 

Managing screen time over the holidays

How can you ensure you don’t spend most of the holidays arguing about how long your children spend in front a screen?

 

Really try and take advantage of the holidays, using it as a chance to spend real quality time with the kids without the pressure of work and other distractions.  This will help to reconnect and secure a strong relationship between parent and child.

Sit down as a family, discuss and agree on screen time rules for the holidays

 

  • Agree the upper time limit on screen use
  • Write the rules/timing  down
  • Establish if there is different timing for different types of use: passive, interactive, social or creative
  • Decide on tech free zones or tech free times during the day
  • Determine with your child what is the reward for sticking to the rules about screen time and consequences for not.
  • Be consistent – stick to the timings (use kitchen timer or timer on your phone) and if you find they are unrealistic review them again with your child.
  • Brainstorm what else kids can do to keep occupied at home that doesn’t involve use of a screen.

All the above rules should ideally apply to parents too – you are the role model