How to keep your kids off the screens this Christmas


– Do your kids stay online much longer than they intended?

– Sneak online when no-ones watching?

– Disobey the rules that are set around internet time?

– Get irritable when access to the Web is denied?

– Prefer being online than being around real, live friends and family?

– Check social media frequently throughout the day?

– Rush home from school so they can get online with their gaming friends?

– Appear to have lost all interest in activities previously enjoyed because they are now obsessed with being online?

How to keep your kids off the screens this Christmas 3

If you answered ‘yes’ to many of those questions your child could be well on the way to forming compulsive and addictive behavior that is destructive to their well-being.

With Christmas holidays just around the corner, many parents are concerned about the impact of the online activities that their children seem to be addicted to – and they have very good reason to be.

Our brains have this amazing chemical called Dopamine which is released into the brain motivating you to want to do something over and over again. Dopamine causes us to feel happy or charged when we engage in something pleasurable, leading us to get hooked on lots of things in life.

That works great when we engage in things that are good for us – ie. exercising, eating healthy food, a hug from the one you love, but it also works in the reverse and causes many people to feel they are hooked on things that can be destructive – ie. drugs, alcohol, gambling, gaming, porn.

A recent study looked at screen time with Teenagers and Tweens, and after an exhaustive study with thousands of kids they found that the daily average that teenagers were connected to some form of entertainment, media or technology was 8 hours and 56 minutes; tweens being 5 hours and 55 minutes. That included every form of technology – TV, videos, Netflix, music, computers, games, browsing websites, video chatting, online homework or reading.

Although technology has incredible benefits that are offered to us today, it still seems like a disturbing amount of time that is spent engaging in technology that in many instances is void of reality. The result is that kids are increasingly suffering from sleeplessness, obsessive behaviour, relationship issues, obesity because of reduced activity, anxiety, depression, disorders like ADD and ADHD.

That’s why, as parents, we need to get smart! And this Christmas holidays is a great place to start.

Yes, your smartphone is smart, but we need to get smarter in how we use it and the other devices that are part of our world today.

Here’s some tips:

• This Christmas holidays encourage your child to get involved with sports, activities, friends, or anything that links them to real life.

• Instead of just yelling at your children to get off their game, get curious, engage with them and find out what they’re watching. Watch their movies with them, play their games, be their Facebook friend. You may understand the fun factor that they are so attracted to and be able to reason with them from a more empathetic place.

• Create technology-free areas and use Christmas to work on face-to-face communication with your children.

• If your kids are engaging in gaming as a form of escape, look for opportunities to find out what’s really going on in their hearts.

• Be a good role model in how you use technology – you can’t expect your children to be more attentive than you are.

• As you go into the new year sit down with your kids and create some guidelines as well as consequences around healthy online use. Get them to make the rules, they will be more committed to following them.

• As you restrict screen time, find their passion for other activities that will replace it – basketball comps, netball, mountain bike riding, football, etc.

• Protect your kids from social media (Facebook, Snap Chat, Instagram) for as long as you can. They aren’t legally allowed to create an account until the age of 13, so that’s a minimum age to reach for.

• Keep your home computers in a central location, and phones out of the bedroom

• Install apps that restrict smartphones to age-appropriate viewing.

Parents, we don’t have to be a victim to technology in our busy world. Let’s appreciate the good, but be aware of the danger, and have a plan to engage with our children more this Christmas, and into the new year.

About the Author

Fiona Leeworthy

Fiona is a Counsellor & Family Therapist (MCouns, GradDip Psycho, AdvDipFamTherapy and her husband Rick is a businessman, speaker and mentor. Together they share a passion to help couples build strong & healthy relationships in the midst of a busy life.

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