Teaching our children ‘digital resilience’ at an early age is increasingly becoming one of the most important skills you can give them. TimeTokens can help you teach your child some of these essential life skills in a fun and easy way - simples!
Many parents are exasperated by their child’s tech overload, and the degree to which tablets, video games, laptops and smart phones have taken over family life.
Lucy Watts, Educational Consultant and former Headmistress of Eaton House, says that in recent years, she has seen a huge increase in the number of children being driven by device time. She believes it is vital to strike balance between learning digital skills and overloading on screentime.
Screentime stimulates the ‘reward centre’ of pre-school children's brain (the nucleus accumbens), acting as a digital drug, so they will want more and more of it but young children should be active, investigating life in the real world and having lots of social interaction to develop healthily, physically and mentally.
Dr Hayley van Zwanenberg, clinical director of the Priory’s Wellbeing Clinics explains; “The pre-school years are particularly vital for developing non-verbal skills that young people miss completely when on screens.
As ITV’s parenting expert, Sue Atkins says “It is important that children learn at a young age how to monitor and manage their own screentime. If you can establish a system between the ages of five and nine, your child is more likely to self-regulate when they reach their teenage years.”
Before authorising more screentime, consider your child’s maturity level. Ideally, as your child gets older, they will be able to have more and more autonomy to self-manage. However, this is not always the case. If your child is very immature, irresponsible, or struggles with self-discipline, more limits might be appropriate. The bottom line is that you know your child better than anyone and what they are capable of handling. Gradually and incrementally add more freedom as your child becomes better able to self-manage.
Another important element is to pre-plan how you will transition off the screen, rather than just saying ‘turn it off’, which is often the precursor to a meltdown.
Children often need help transitioning from one activity to the next. Those who are hungry, tired, stressed, or emotionally drained will have a particularly difficult time with transitions. Screens produce dopamine (the same neurotransmitter associated with addiction) in the brain. Your child may not be just wilfully rude to you when you turn off the screen – there’s a set of chemical reactions happening in their brain. Think about an activity that helps your children tolerate the ‘let down’ feeling when a screen is taken away.
The best way to help transition is to agree a system that leads your child away from one activity (digital) to a fun one that does not involve a screen. Rules and boundaries give children security in an unpredictable world. When it comes to the issue of screen usage, maintain boundaries that are flexible as your child develops, giving them a better shot at self-regulating their screen use.
This approach to building ‘digital resilience’ will ensure that younger children grow up able to make good decisions for themselves as teenagers.
Helene Jones, an ex-SENCO and owner of Assessment Tuition, “It really helps to agree a behaviour contract, particularly when children are young and do not yet have access to their own digital device.”
Each TimeTokens pack includes a special Promise Contract. This allows your child to feel he or she is ‘in charge’ of the agreed time limits, and can choose when and how to exercise their screen interaction. This concept of self-determination sits at the heart of empowering children to learn how to manage their OWN screentime.
What are you waiting for?!
Published in ABC Magazine March 2017