Get Off that IPad !

Get off the IPAD ! Then the tantrum starts. We’ve all been there. It’s not good for you, we said 15 minutes and you’ve been on it for nearly an hour ! Do your homework, get off social media !

But Mommy I want baby shark, daddy I want peppa pig…

Tech has overrun us, and we are trying our best to keep our heads above water. We want our kids to be social and play outdoors like we used to, we want them to have real friends, we want them to not be a part of ‘the addiction’. It starts off with playdates and babies, but ever so quickly all the apps creep in.

We welcome ‘screen-time’ on the new IOS 12 like a major honest improvement from Apple. Screen-time allows us to point to facts and illustrate reality:

‘you’ve spent 4 hours on the phone today, wouldn’t it be grand if you spent that time doing your homework’

Still… aren’t we addicted ourselves ?

This is such a current issue that in July, the US congress announced that they would present a bill with an astounding budget of US$95 million to study the effect that technology has on “infants, children and adolescents”. The bill: the Children and Media Research Advancement Act (CAMRA) would focus on how the use of different types of tech such as “mobile devices, social media and virtual reality” can affect a child’s thought processes, growth and even how they socialize. You would think we have researched this in detail already ! Well, we haven’t… This bill has been presented to congress several times since 2004 and still hasn’t been passed so hold on tight. Research hasn’t even begun.

Read more here

We inherently know overuse of tech is a bad idea, we can see it all around us.

The greatest debate is how we can teach our kids about good tech habits

Past experiments between phone usage and dopamine kicks (see more detail about it in this very interesting Harvard article) indicates only the short term effects and the withdrawal symptoms we have with smartphones and devices. We thrive in social media structures of <150 people, we never feel alone, we feel good when other users validate our content.

Interestingly, we can disengage when there are no rewards. These symptoms are exactly the same as drug addiction, so should we postulate the long term use will require a ‘phone users anonymous’ support group to get us all unhooked (or should I say unplugged) ?

Moms and dads in the 21st century now have the obligation to teach their children about the benefits and dangers of modern technology while navigating in the dark about the real long term effects. So what can parents do to moderate screen time and encourage positive tech-use habits for their kids?

Set time-limits and ground rules

Let’s put ‘screen-time’ to good use. However there is a clear pitfall to avoid here:

One parent said of screen time: ‘It can be used as an incentive. Instead of extra pocket money, kids can earn extra screen time! ‘

While this sounds fine as a short term solution, the greatest issue here is the idea that screen-time is now associated with ‘rewards’. This implies whenever the child wants to relax or kick back, using a device is the guilty pleasure. This proposal is way too attractive and we are in a way conditioning the neural pathways for increased phone usage when your LO grows up ! In psychological terms, we are associating  rewards with good behavior thus reinforcing Ipads and Iphones or computers (read screen time of all kinds) as desirable outcomes. Precisely what we are trying to avoid in the first place !

Use apps/features that limit screen time

A more hands-on approach involves smart device features that can help set time limits on certain applications. For instance, Apple’s new iOS 12 contains new features to monitor screen time on individual apps and put time limits on how long you can use them on a given day. This is a great way to make sure kids abide by the set daily limits of apps and parents can even monitor what their child spends most of their time on to make adjustments to rules.

This feature may even be beneficial for parents who’s fingers twitch towards that Instagram or Facebook logo every 15 minutes.

Introduce tech-gadgets geared towards children

A more novel solution is to give your kids gadgets that are made specifically for kids. Nowadays, parents have a plethora of ways to do this; with the advent of smart wearable tech for kids and other creative tech-solutions. One affordable option is a watch that is able to display tasks that parents have set for them throughout the day (https://www.heyjoy.io/).

There are even higher-end smartwatches (https://www.doki.com/) for children that have fancy features such as location tracking and video-calling, but is also able to be in “class mode”, a function that disables the features of the watch during a set time (a nifty feature when your kids should be studying )

The aforementioned devices are built with children in mind, so they are fully controlled by the parent and are not bloated by unnecessary software. The functions are also able to teach kids good habits to follow. The scheduling feature teaches children the importance of organization while fitness tracking features and helps to ‘gamify’ exercise so that kids can stay fit and healthy.

When looking at the big picture, perhaps we should take the same approach as with healthy eating: moderation is key. It is important that parents put limits on usage of smart devices and teach children the consequences of overuse. Guiding your children to have healthy screen-time habits is more important now than ever and is a lesson that will continue to be beneficial as they grow up.

Here are some more great sources to get informed from

Forbes: What is the right age to introduce your kids to mobile technology ?

Thrive: Will technology ruin your child’s development ?

Telegraph: How to unplug your tech addicted child ?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the author: Aufar Waldi is an HR Major currently working in a tech startup as a project coordinator and part time tutor/contributor for Mathemagic