06 Oct Are you a Super Screen Parent or a Tech Time Tyrant? | Five ways to better manage Tech time at home
When I had my first child I, like many new parents, decided ‘no child of mine’ would spend copious hours in front of the TV. But flash forward nine years and my two kids are borderline addicted to what appears to be the typical blend of TV, YouTube and Tech. Of course it’s not all bad….
When you’re a parent working from home those unofficial electronic babysitters serve a purpose. I can get on with my workload uninterrupted while they enjoy programmes I can barely endure. The typical household these days has multiple devices on which to view and play. That means arguments over what is watched and played at any one time are thankfully few. Tech is also an incredible tool for discipline; the threat of it being taken away can result in completed homework, tidy bedrooms and wonderful table manners too. But increasingly it’s isolating my family.
Each person is quite literally left to their own devices. Impacting negatively on physical activity levels and social skills. If your family is like that too here are the steps I am gradually taking to integrate tech into a more fulfilling family life and replace it with other things.
1. Play tech together
More and more consoles and games are recognising the fun they can create for all the family with active and interactive games. Whatever console you have there are plenty of options and playing electronic games with your children will show them you’re not so square as well as giving you a little insight into their world.
2. Bring out a board game
Board games and playing cards were a huge part of my childhood and these games develop all kinds of skills – both educational and social. At home we play one game every Sunday and it varies from one week to another how successful it is as an exercise.
What board games do is pave the way for scenarios electronic games don’t really permit. My kids are sometimes tempted to cheat, adding a moral dilemma to play. The duration of the games is often longer too, and so they develop greater patience and persistence. The luck element of dice games can literally turn the outcome of a game on its head, requiring everyone to enjoy victory and defeat with good grace.
3. Go where tech is no longer an option
I often tell my children that their enduring memories from childhood will not be when they were alone in their rooms watching ET for the first time or creating a megastructure in Minecraft. Think back to your own childhood and I am sure the fondest memories you have involved friends, family and some kind of excursion or activity.
When we go camping I deliberately leave the tech at home – even for the long car journey. Once the kids know they can’t have it they experience this thing called acceptance and then do this thing called looking out of the window which as adults I don’t think we spend enough doing either.
Over the remainder of the year we venture out for a walk, or pop to the park, or jump on our bikes as often as time allows. Again there’s a fuss made before we get out and about but once we are running, playing and climbing trees tech is happily forgotten for a while. The main picture of us on the beach was actually taken on Christmas Eve when we went to the Isle of Wight without our devices.
4. Craft and play
BoxHeads were created because my son wanted to dress up on World Book Day. But since I’ve created the product and taken it to market at various events and shows it has shown me that simply sitting with your kids to colour something in, stick things down or apply a little paint to make a masterpiece is a really bonding experience.
One mum once commented that she simply didn’t ‘get’ Minecraft but once she sat with her son and they made a BoxHead together he explained more to her about the game while together they did something they both understood.
Of course I would encourage everyone with a kid who likes gaming to buy a boxhead because taking the time to sit with your kids to create is therapeutic for you as much as your family.
In addition since few household with kids lack a ready supply of pens, paper, paints, stickers and more dig them out to lure your kids away from tech when you think they’ve had enough.
5. Watch a family box set
Finally actively watching TV together is great for a family. The sheer range of what you can watch and flexibility of where and when you can catch up leaves you without any excuse not to but it’s nice to make a ritual of it so its looked forward to and planned perhaps with a few treats thrown in for good measure.
Shows like Bake Off, the X Factor, Strictly and so on are great as together you can enjoy the journey of the entrants together, making judgements on their efforts along the way. They might even encourage you to take up baking, singing or dancing together giving you even more time away from tech.