Imagine a life where your child has no screen time. No arguments and sulking when the iPad is taken away, and not having to listen to hours of commentary on their latest, favourite video game. Mood swings and constant technology talk are two signs of technology addiction – some more worrying ones are signs of distress when cut off from technology, a lack of interest in anything else, and dishonesty around their technology usage.
Is screen time really so damaging? Studies link digital media exposure not only to an increase in both aggression and high-risk behaviour, but to ADHD, anxiety, and depression. Dr Nicholas Kardaras, a psychologist and author, reveals that “an addiction to screens can be more difficult to treat than one to drugs”, and that it’s violent games and porn that are most addictive. In an interview*, he says that “prevention really is worth a pound of cure”, but if too late he believes the addiction must be treated with a digital detox.
In a study of 29 countries, South Africa was listed in the top 10 countries with the highest cyber-risk, making South African children particularly vulnerable to cyber bullying, online grooming and explicit sexual content. Of the South African children polled, 64% had encountered one or more cyber risks.
Keen for a digital detox yet? Here are six ideas to help your child let go of the screen this summer:
Create a family tech lock-up box
As a family, talk about why you’re detoxing and all commit to times where devices are out of reach. Adults can be addicts too, so role model how to deal with your discomfort.
Think up a time-consuming holiday project
Mom of two boys Heather Drummond, says: “If we’re at home for a holiday, we find home improvement projects to sink our teeth into. Whether it’s sanding and painting a piece of furniture or preparing and planting a new flower bed, I find that once the kids are outside with a purpose, hours go by with no thought of technology.”
Be brave and bake
Donne Drennan, who has three children between three and 10 years old, bakes with her kids. ‘It seems to be a bridge-the-age-gap kind of activity and it requires teamwork to bake, lick the bowl and share the baked goodies.”
Return to nature
Lico Gross has two magical ingredients to make her boys forget about screens altogether: nature and physical exercise. She finds just being somewhere beautiful in nature is like therapy, and being active in stantly lifts their moods.
Replace digital games with real ones
Kids love games – even old-fashioned ones. Katrina Tyson says, “ My kids love family board or card games – 30 seconds is great fun now that my son can read, and you don’t even need to spend money on buying the boardgame, just get your kids to write their own five words on a card and you get to guess’.
Choose your play dates
As a mom of a single child, Lee Phelps says play dates are her technology distracting life-saver. “You do have to be selective when organising them as some parents allow their children a lot of screen time when friends are visiting.”
To begin with, this will feel like a lot of work, but don’t cave, but before you know it, your children will be entertaining themselves with activities that prepare them better for the real world and their relationships in it.
*Dr Nicholas Kardaras, a psychologist and author of Glow Kids: How Screen Addiction is Hijacking Our Kids – and How to Break the Trance.
Article by Fedhealth