For those Baby Boomers (and some millennials), who remember life without 24/7 technology, life is much different now! Generation Z haven’t needed to master the art of conversation or being comfortable with their brains unstimulated. With some many devices and easy access to games, entertainment and information, it’s easy to get sucked into the latest gadget or game. Modern life means that we are often time poor and it can often lead to us pulling away from making deep human connections. We believe it’s important to embrace the technology but getting the balance is essential…take a read to find out why and how you can make a change.

Why is too much time spent on mobile devices a problem?

Tanya Goodwin, author of ‘Stop Staring at Screens’ says that “Screens and remote digital contact, rather than real relationships, are the default focus of our attention. We retreat into devices to avoid awkward situations; they distract us when we’re bored; entertain us when we’re lost for words. They’re less complicated than people, but ultimately less rewarding.”

What’s the benefit of spending less time on mobile devices?

Do you find that your child’s social abilities decline as they spend more time on mobile devices? A recent UCLA study found that after just 5 days without looking at a digital screen, the same 11-12 year olds were substantially better at reading human emotions than those spent hours a day glued to their devices.

How easy is it to post your view, click ‘like’ or add an emoji? Mobile devices make it very easy to give our views but not so easy to listen and emphasise. A survey by the Princes’s trust found 22% of 16-22 year olds in the UK didn’t feel they had anyone to talk to about their problems growing up.

Less time spent on mobile devices means more chances for having a conversation and interacting with your child. Research conducted by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found conversation between adults and children between the ages of 4 and 6 changes the way the brain forms and is critical to language development.

We love having a conversation – it’s so simple, pleasurable and rewarding. A 2015 University of Michigan study found people above 50 years of age who meet friends and family three times a week are half as likely to suffer from depression than those who enjoy virtual contact.

It’s important to remember that, people – including kids – are constantly changing and developing new preferences, fears, thoughts, and emotions. Therefore, to continue to know your children as well as you hope to, you need to keep asking questions to start conversations. These can be 1-2-1 or in a family situation such as at meal times, when the whole family can join in a discussion.

Do you find that your child has a decreased attention span? Children need to learn to be ‘bored’ – they then have to develop the skills of imagination and creativity, both of which are incredibly useful for future careers. As is the art of communication – employers are looking for a team that are not only great at using technology but at communicating!

How do you know if your children are reliant on mobile devices?

If your children are whining about having to go outside instead of playing their video game, if they are not concentrating at school or if they can’t sit still in a restaurant without an iPad in front of them, then you may have a problem.

How can you help wean your child off their mobile devices?

Knowing you have a problem is the straightforward part. Tackling it is often then the big hurdle – you know it’s the right thing to do but know it won’t be easy. We completely understand – we’ve been there but trust us, stick in there and life will get easier – and happier! Take a look at 5 ways to wean yourself off mobile devices:

  1. Limit alone time:
    • Keep the desktop computers or laptops in an open space. There are so many benefits to this from being able to interact with them whilst they are gaming or doing their homework, to limiting their time that they can spend on there as there are no secrets!
    • Keep portable devices such as smartphones or tablets out of bedrooms overnight. This way, they can’t get distracted by screentime and have a better night’s sleep!
  2. Use transitions: When children are playing a game or watching a programme, give them advance notice of when the device needs to be stopped. Depending on their age, you may need to give reminders as the time runs down.
  3. Fill their time: For many children, games, social media and television programmes are a way to deal with stress, fill a hole in their social lives or relieve boredom. Fill up some of that time with an activity such as a bike ride, football game or board game. But don’t worry about them having some time to be ‘bored’ – this is when they need to learn to go and amuse themselves, an important skill!
  4. Set a good example: If we have our eyes on our screentime all the time, then children will see that as the ‘norm’ and acceptable. We’ve reminded ourselves to put down our phones during meals and when playing with the children.
  5. Stop your reliance on mobile devices: It’s so easy to pack away a tablet when you’re going out for a family dinner or to hand them your phone as soon as you sit down. Children need to learn how to behave without these crutches. Encourage conversation at the meal tables and then if they’ve finished before you or the food is taking ages to be served, we find that a notebook, activity set or our amazing colouring placemats. Take a look at LittleActivePeople for some great ideas to encourage their creativity.

Thank you for reading – hope these suggestions help with weaning your child off their mobile devices. Let us know what ways you used to reduce time on mobile devices for your children!

Jemma & Gill xxx

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