A baby cries and a phone is shoved in their face to entertain them. A toddler screams, and a tablet is handed to them to watch videos or play games. A child throws a tantrum and they’re given a gadget to keep them busy while the guardians or parents focus on other tasks. Soon enough, the kid cannot eat or entertain themself without a gadget. They begin to throw tantrums in order to get access to devices. The parents are hunched over their phones, and the kids are hunched over their tablets. Outdoor activities and indoor games like card and board games that teach foundational and basic skills are forgotten.
Tech is the future, but is your kid spending too much time on that smartphone, laptop or TV?
What is the downside to this?
One of the most basic downside is that kids will no longer enjoy non-tech related activity. Toys hold no appeal anymore and cannot sooth their cries. Tech is addictive. The video games and videos they watch can sometimes become the only form of entertainment that they would prefer.
The second and more important downside to this is that kids grow up with an underdeveloped social and interpersonal skill. Because they did not engage in many activities that involves human and peer communication, games and plays that taught strategy and communication, they grow up without understanding how to interact and socially communicate with others.
Even a kid that’s interested in learning tech needs to have boundaries set when it comes to time used for tech activities.
Signs that your kids are addicted to tech
The first sign is usually a disinterest in any activity that requires them to look up from their smartphones, tablets, laptops, or TV. If kids complain that they are bored and unhappy whenever they don’t have access to tech, it is a sign that they have built u an unhealthy addiction to tech-related activities.
Another sign to watch out for is resistance and sometimes extreme tantrums when you try to take away their tech gadgets and curb their screen time.
When tech time interferes with their sleep, when they would rather be on their tablets than pay attention to school activities, when they would be playing with their tech gadgets while having conversations with others, then there is an unhealthy tech usage time.
Now, this is not to say that tech usage or tech tie is a bad thing. As advocates for kids to get into tech from a young age, we have established the very important need for kids to learn tech. But tech time varies. A kid that’s learning programming, design or robotics is not equal to the time spent playing video games or watching entertainment videos.
Practical Ways to Curb Excessive Tech Time
You are the first example
Tech is addictive even for adults. We are always checking or phones, scrolling through social media for hours, watching TikTok videos and reels, watching our favourite videos on YouTube, etc. Children copy adult behaviour and sometimes, they can feel like they are being replaced by tech or fighting for adult attention with tech. You should not set rules that you don’t abide by. Kids take their cues from adults. If dinner time is no phone time, you should also ensure that you abide by the same rule. If kids see you addicted to tech while trying to curb their tech time, they will find loopholes around your rules and probably fight you all the way.
To curb your own use of tech, there are apps and features which set time limits for specified apps and can show you the amount of time spent on your devices or on apps on a daily or weekly basis. This gives you a view on the amount of time you spend on tech and helps you curb your own tech time. If you learn to unplug from tech, you can then teach your little ones to do same.
5. Offset their tech use with non-tech-related activities
Offer them or show them other fun activities they can replace too much tech time with. Show them how to play indoor and outdoor games like monopoly, card games, sports games like football, running, jumping, etc. Take them out on nature strolls or encourage them to read age-appropriate books.
It is also recommended that parents and guardians sometimes join the kids in doing these non-tech activities in order to arouse their interest. Outdoor activities are a great way to curb depression and encourage the build-up of motor skills, as well as social skills.
Still set screen time limits
There should be time boundaries set for screen time. This is to curb the time spent on tech activities, as well as mapping out time for non-tech activities. Some popular screen-free times are during meal times, during car rides, as well as little or no screen time on school nights. There should also be set times to reconnect with family which should be set at the time adults return from work.
You can curb screen time also by setting screen time limits on devices and some apps. Most smartphones have apps or features that enables this.
Family activities like outings, trips, outdoor games, indoor activities like card and board games should be screen-free times.
While there are many debates on the right amount of time kids should spend on tech, parents and guardians can set their time boundaries based on factors like school nights, assignments, other family activities, etc. One hour on school nights and two to three hours during weekends can be.
How much time is too much screen time?
Prior to 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended no screen time for children under 2. However, the guidelines were revised in 2016, with recommendations of one hour a day of screen time for children aged 2 – 5, and only video chatting for babies under 2. Parents and guardians can work with these guidelines or modify them to suit their specificities with the well-being of the children being the top consideration.
Protect Your Devices
Kids can make mistakes, like accidentally destroying a device, or making an in-app purchase. A woman’s little daughter bought a pair of high-heeled shoes off Jumia and had it delivered to their address. How did a little girl do that? More importantly, where did she get access to make online purchases? It’s necessary that parents and guardians put protective measure son their phones that would lock inappropriate apps, software, sites, as well as prevent damages to their devices.
Besides using protective cases for tech gadgets to prevent damages, parental control should be implemented on devices to set screen time limits and restrict downloads, as well as access to certain sites.
Limiting the amount of time kids spend on tech gadgets is key to providing a healthy balance of online and offline activities, as well as ensuring they develop motor skills and social skills. It also enforces discipline and teaches them to overcome the addictiveness of tech in order to have a well-rounded life.