Life as a parent can be frustrating and rewarding in equal measure. One minute your child is astounding you with their newfound knowledge, sense of humour and limitless energy, the next, they’re staring inanely at a screen for hours on end.
With smartphones, tablets, PlayStations and many more all constantly vying for your child’s attention, it can be seemingly impossible to get them off their backsides and out into the great outdoors. Homework and even sleep can be sacrificed in the name of screen time, so it’s essential, every now and then, to remind your pride and joy what life is really all about.
With one-in-four people spending more time online day-to-day than they do sleeping, and with teenagers sending an average of 3,400 electronic messages a month, sometimes a digital detox, where devices are completely switched off for a solid block of time, is the only solution.
But what can you actually do to encourage your kids to take part in (and enjoy!) a digital detox
- Create realistic targets
The only way to get your child on board with going off the grid is to set realistic targets that can be achieved. We’re not talking about complete withdrawal here. Instead, think about setting limits and guidelines for each day and then building up from there. For example, beginning by limiting total screen time to one hour a day is achievable. On the weekends, kids can then be allowed additional time to play games and use the internet, but only if they’ve hit their targets during the week. The American Academy of Paediatrics suggests no more than 2 hours of screen time daily for children, so you could begin by using that as a guide.
- Set a good example
You can’t expect your child to regulate their use of digital devices if you’re glued to your smartphone yourself. Kids learn more by observing your behaviour than they do from the words you say, so instead make rules that the whole family is required to stick to. Banning phones during mealtimes and enforcing digital-free days are simple rules for life that everyone can live by.
- Take a tech-free holiday
There are lots of different ways you can escape the clutches of digital devices. A trip to the country or the mountains where there’s no internet connection is an excellent way to start. Although these days there’s likely to be Wifi in most holiday cottages and cabins, there should be so many things to see and do that digital devices are going to be the last thing on your children’s minds. Instead, keep them occupied with fun and challenging outdoor games and sports.
Even if you can’t afford a vacation or have work commitments that make it impossible, it’s completely possible to have an electronic detox at home. Even just unplugging for a couple of weekends a year can help your children see that the digital world is not necessarily something they’ll miss. In fact, a University of Sheffield study found that spending an hour a day on social media reduces the probability of a child being completely happy with their life by 14 percent.
- Ban digital devices in the bedroom
These days, it’s not uncommon for children and particularly teenagers to have TVs, laptops, DVD players, mobile phones and games consoles in their bedrooms. With all those digital distractions, what chance do homework and other hobbies have?
Looking at screens before bedtime makes it more difficult to fall asleep. A child’s ability to concentrate, think, memorise, understand and learn all depends on how much sleep they get. Tired children also tend to be bad-tempered, distracted and crave sugar and sweets. Removing temptation by keeping digital devices outside of their bedrooms is an important step to take.
- Get outdoors
Studies show that children who spend more time outdoors are calmer and happier. They also have improved sleep patterns, perform better at school and are less likely to be overweight. If that’s not an advert for trying to promote an outdoors lifestyle, we’re not sure what is! Bike rides and trips to the park are hard to resist for even the most digitally addicted youngsters, while camping, team sports and youth clubs can be attractive to teens.
- Encourage a healthy balance
A digital detox is not about banishing all devices never to be seen again. It’s about taking steps to find a healthy balance for you and your children so you’re no longer indulging in a daily digital binge. They say everything in moderation, and digital devices are no different.