Con­trol kids’ screen use

Par­ents feel they have lost their way, finds He­len O’Cal­laghan

Irish Examiner - Feelgood - - Parenting -

HOW to man­age chil­dren’s screen time. It’s the most fre­quent ques­tion par­ent ed­u­ca­tor and au­thor Noel Ja­nis-Nor­ton is asked. The founder of Lon­don-based Calmer, Eas­ier, Hap­pier Par­ent Cen­tre, Ja­nis-Nor­ton says par­ents feel very pow­er­less be­cause tech­nol­ogy’s ev­ery­where.

“They feel they ei­ther can’t do any­thing about it or they shouldn’t do any­thing be­cause tech­nol­ogy’s the ‘way of the fu­ture’. Par­ents have lost their way.”

Ja­nis-Nor­ton says par­ents are painfully aware of neg­a­tive im­pacts of pro­longed time on elec­tronic de­vices: ag­gres­sive, stressed chil­dren; re­duced time spent with fam­ily; in­ad­e­quate fo­cus on school­work; and lit­tle in­ter­est in whole­some non-screen ac­tiv­i­ties.

“Screens are ad­dic­tive. The child’s brain is in the habit of get­ting a re­ward from the screen,” says Ja­nis-Nor­ton, whose lat­est book, Calmer Eas­ier Hap­pier Screen Time, cites sci­en­tific re­search show­ing how ad­dic­tive the dig­i­tal world is for de­vel­op­ing brains. She says par­ents don’t know how to man­age when they try to cur­tail the child’s screen time.

“They of­ten say ‘he’ll get up­set, she’ll have a tantrum’. Par­ents need to ac­cept chil­dren will be up­set, but plenty of things up­set kids and it doesn’t stop par­ents do­ing what’s right. They know chil­dren will get over it.”

Ja­nis-Nor­ton sees the pos­i­tive uses of tech­nol­ogy but wants to put par­ents in con­trol of chil­dren’s dig­i­tal lives — es­sen­tial if fam­ily life is to im­prove. She has an em­pow­er­ing mes­sage for par­ents who feel they can’t get the ge­nie back in the bot­tle. “Par­ents who’ve al­lowed too much screen time or who’ve per­mit­ted screens in the bed­room can take back au­thor­ity.”

But this can’t be done by blam­ing, but by re­al­is­ing it isn’t the child’s fault they’ve be­come screen­de­pen­dent. “The par­ent must have com­pas­sion, em­pa­thy and firm­ness. Though we’re not per­fect as par­ents, we do know more than kids about what’s good for them.”

The book has tech­niques for wean­ing chil­dren/teens off elec­tronic de­vices and for lim­it­ing screen time. It ex­plains how long you should al­low kids in front of a screen (un­der age three: no screens; three to eight-year-olds: half hour a day to­tal screen time; age eight up­wards: one hour to­tal) and par­tic­u­lar times of day when screens should be avoided (morn­ings be­fore school, meal­times, two hours be­fore bed).

Calmer Eas­ier Hap­pier Screen Time, Noel Ja­nis-Nor­ton, €20.99.

Pic­ture: iStock

HARD LESSONS: Limit the time your child has on screen ev­ery day and be firm about it.

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