From our most recent research for our All Ireland Digital Trend Report, we discovered that children as young as 5 spend some time online every day. This means that technology is a central part of childhood, at an increasingly young age. How to manage the time children spend online can be a constant challenge for parents. Here we offer some advice about setting boundaries around the use of technology in your home.
At Zeeko we believe strongly in the concept of active mediation. This essentially means communicating in an open manner with your child and creating a relationship where your child knows that they can come to you with, for example an issue they have experienced online that has made them feel frightened or intimidated, without the fear that there will be a negative consequence for them. Active mediation is a great starting point when setting boundaries on the use of technology, as it is inevitable that it will take some time to get used to any new ‘rules’ set down about, for example the amount of time spent using devices.
Role modelling is also important when it comes to setting boundaries on the use of technology by children. If your child sees you regularly using devices, phones, iPads and/or iPods they are going to see that as normal and think that it is acceptable for them to use devices. So, try where possible to use your own devices less, encourage a reduction in screentime through being a good role model, particularly in the lead up to your child’s bedtime. The blue light omitted by many devices affects the melatonin levels in the brain and can significantly affect deep sleep and concentration the following day. This goes for adults and children alike.
At Zeeko we have pioneered the 5:1 rule in relation to screentime, that for every one hour spent online children should spend 5 hours engaged in activities offline, be that doing homework, playing with friends or engaged in family activities. The most important thing to remember when creating boundaries in relation to technology, is that things like confiscation of devices and using this as a punishment will more than likely lead to your child finding other ways to go online, be that in a friend’s house or when they are visiting relatives. Digital devices are now a part of everyday life, teaching your child to have a balanced view of using technology will have far more positive effects long term than associating technology with punishment or negative consequences.
Promoting the positive use of technology around your children will also help them to have a healthy respect for what technology can bring to their lives. For example if you do your weekly grocery shop online, involve your child in this and when the task is done make sure that your child can see that the device you used is turned off and you have moved on to a different task that does not involve technology. By seeing something like this, your child will learn from watching you that technology can be a help in day to day tasks, but that they do not have to be online constantly and can use technology and then put it do one side and move on to something else.
In essence it’s all about balance, setting realistic boundaries and teaching your child through example that life has more to offer than sitting in front of a screen.