In today’s age, children are growing up surrounded by screens and devices and as a result, there can be a dependency or obsession with the online world. Striking a balance between technology use and other aspects of a child’s life is essential for their development and mental well-being. Parents, here’s a guide for you on how to help your child overcome their digital overuse!
Model Healthy Habits:
Like anything else, children learn by example and parents are their primary role models. So, demonstrate a more balanced approach to using technology by managing your own screen time responsibly. Keep phones away during conversations with each other or during specific times of the day, like during meals. When your child witnesses you be more mindful about using devices, they’re more likely to adopt similar habits.
Have Open Communication:
Create an open and non-judgmental space to discuss tech use with your child. Encourage them to share their online experiences, interests, and concerns. Being an active listener includes asking open-ended questions that allow your child to elaborate, clarifying when you’re unsure what they mean, and not interrupting or inserting your assumptions into the dialogue. These conversations will help to foster trust and send the message that you’re a pillar of support to lean on if your child ever encounters a negative online experience.
Encourage Offline Activities:
It’s one thing to set boundaries or restrict how often your child is online. But without something meaningful or interesting to do, chances are they will jump right back on their devices at any chance they get. So, encourage your child to do activities outside of their phones or gaming consoles. Plan family outings, like going to the beach or park. At home, set up activities like board games, movie night or art jamming. At school, encourage them to sign up for sports or other CCAs to engage their time meaningfully. This will also facilitate skill development and promote social relationships offline.
Participate in the Digital World:
Yes, that’s right! Like the saying goes, if you can’t beat them, join them – with the appropriate boundaries of course. Doing things like playing online games, sharing interesting posts that you see, or supporting their online content can sometimes be a great way to connect. This also helps you to better understand their digital world and opens up opportunities to create shared experiences.
Seek Professional Support:
If you’ve explored and tried various ways to improve your child’s digital use but aren’t noticing a difference, it may be time to consider seeking help. This is especially important if other aspects of your child’s life are being negatively affected, like general moods, school grades or relationships with others. A mental health professional, like a counsellor or psychologist, can provide the specialised support by conducting a comprehensive assessment to understand the issues contributing to digital overuse. They can also offer insights into effective parenting strategies and communication techniques to foster a supportive home environment.
Navigating the digital world involves a world of online intricacies that can be confusing and complex. Start by adopting some of these strategies to ease your way into the process of building a healthy and balanced relationship with tech for your child. And when things get tough, get in touch with a mental health professional for support. Parenting isn’t always easy, and it’s not a job that should be done alone!
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About the author Jowena:
Jowena has rich bicultural experience having grown up in the United States for over 16 years before moving back to Singapore permanently in 2014. Her professional experience expands over seven years and includes work as a behavioural therapist, associate psychologist, and assistant manager at a private counselling centre. She has worked with children, adolescents, and young adults from a variety of populations ranging from special needs to prison services.