Control kids’ screen use
Parents feel they have lost their way, finds Helen O’Callaghan
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.
HARD LESSONS: Limit the time your child has on screen every day and be firm about it.