Don’t view the mobile phone or tablet as a shut-up toy while a parent is busy, highlights Dr Aarti Bakshi.
Our brains are hardwired to like things that are new and exciting, and technology captures that.
It’s easier to engage in constantly checking your phone or playing a game than tasks that require more mental effort.
However, it is the hard options that are ultimately more rewarding for children.
While a parent is often searching for the ‘perfect solution’, it is the process itself that is most helpful in laying the foundation for decision-making, independence-training and coping with difficult situations or problems.
Addiction to technology is a debatable topic.
The amount of time children and teenagers typically spend on phones and other devices can be misleading as a measure of whether they are unhealthily engaged.
That’s because many of the things youngsters do on those devices are age-appropriate activities that in the past were done offline — socialising with peers, exploring personal interests, shopping, listening to music, doing schoolwork, watching movies or TV.
Texting and use of social media sites, for instance, have become important channels for adolescents connecting to others and being validated.
It builds their self-awareness and likes and dislikes.
At the same time, apps and games are designed to keep us engaged as much as possible, and it can be hard for children to exercise self-control when their impulse is to keep scrolling.
A few strategies to help children to stop a negative behaviour would be:
1. Acknowledge their emotions
Emotions are important.
Accept the child’s wishes or feelings. Help them.
Tell them the rules and set boundaries for acceptable time-limit and off limit sites.
Age-appropriate sites can be talked about and encouraged. At the same time you may install blockers for inappropriate online sites.
3. Target a positive choice
Involve the entire family and brainstorm family games to do more than use technology.
Now, let us look at what all we can do at home as a family.
Collect a toolkit of indoor activities which caters to a holistic well-being for children and the family as an entity.
1. A tech-free time zone
Observe ‘tech-free’ times such as during meals, homework, and bedtime.
In addition, a parent can designate ‘tech-free’ zones for the child such as in the bedroom and study areas.
Mirroring is a great modelling technique for children. Which means the parent must follow the tech-free time too.
2. Technology as a baby-sitter
Don’t view the phone or tablet as a shut-up toy while a parent is busy.
Give your child more freedom and choice. Keep options ready as painting kits, block sets and brain teaser activities as rubric cubes, puzzles.
3. Insist on electronic-free play dates
Invite their friends and set up board games, help them set a picnic with bedsheet tents, create your sandwiches, or even make a lemon juice together.
Summer may allow an ice-cream party too, or spraying each other with water.
4. Family dance party
Play a game of freeze dance using a mixed playlist, which has favourite numbers for the family.
Special extras for the children are a great add-on.
Streaming music is a great way to explore new music and find tunes you and your little ones will love.
Maybe try music from different regions and even languages. Playing dancing statues with dancing when the music is playing and standing as statues when the music stops.
Another one is ‘Follow the Leader’ — every family member tries a dance move, and all others follow the move. Then a combination of all moves and a certain order of following the moves can be done.
5. Choreograph a dance
Have each family member pick a favourite song, then send everyone off to choreograph it. When everyone is ready, get dressed up and unveil them to each other.
6. Treasure hunt
Create a treasure hunt throughout your home or garden.
Fill plastic bottles, containers with coins, stones and hide them all over. Then ask everyone to find them.
Come up with creative prizes to give each child based on how many they find.
A thought, when it comes to prizes, I find things like ‘alone time’, doing exactly what your child wants to do, reading time, getting a ‘clean-up pass’ so that one day someone helps child to put everything away; to be better than any material thing you could reward them with.
7. Balance the ball
Take a bedsheet, have everyone grab corners and edges and then start waving your arms up and down to make it rise and fall.
Throw a ball in the middle and allow them to balance the flips and highs that the ball does not fall off the bedsheet. Sure to provide giggles galore.
8. Paper airplane competition
Have everyone make their own paper airplane and set up fly zone to see whose can travel the furthest.
You can even have different levels of the competition.
9. Balloon tennis
Blow up a balloon and see how long you can keep it in the air without letting it hit the ground. Or grab a couple of rackets and use the balloon for a fun new way to play tennis.
Use either chalk outdoors or glitter, coloured tape indoors to make the play area.
Fun, easy and even provides a bit of exercise.
11. Lava floor
This is a great game to keep things fun and exciting.
The rules are easy.
Whenever someone yells out ‘lava floor!’, then everyone in the room must find a place to rest of the floor.
To keep things safe, place cushions or other soft items to be your safe zones to avoid any accidents.
Keeping track of everyone’s screen time is one of the most effective ways of preventing a screen addiction. Keeping a family timer for all, sure helps.
Dr Aarti Bakshi is a mother of three, who feels blessed that each of her children talk to her about all that holds their attention.
A school counsellor and a registered Rehabilitation Council of India psychologist, with a PhD in developmental psychology, she has 14 years of experience working with children and young adults.
Dr Bakshi has written a series of social emotional journals — Learning Skills for LIFE — for students of Classes 1-5, under SAAR education. She believes that with the right tools, children can create a kinder world.
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