- Allocate offline playtime activities daily, as it is necessary for your child’s development and creativity.
- Set limits if your child’s technology seems to hinder their participation in other activities.
- Create tech-free zones, such as during mealtimes or bedroom tech-free. Limiting tech use in certain times can encourage family time, healthier eating habits and even healthier sleep.
Some of us give children smartphones and handphones early for the sake of their safety. Sometimes, we go so far as to connect with them on social media as it’s easier to communicate at times. However, recently experts have weighed in on how social media affects child development, especially that of older children. And the message is quite clear: it may be time to drop the tech exposure until they’re much older.
How Social Media Affects Child Development
Baroness Susan Greenfield, former director of the Royal Institution of Great Britain, says that exposing children to social media and video games has a negative effect on children.
The main reason, she argues, is that they are always seeking things to distract them. She thinks that children exposed too early to social media will:
- lack the ability to communicate with their peers
- think independently
- be unable to control their own emotions
- be unafraid of taking risks
- lack social skills
- have a poor self-identity
- have attention spans that don’t last long
Most of these traits, argues Greenfield, are similar to those shown by a three-year-olds. In other words, a kind of regression in older kids can be triggered by the use of social media.
Further, in her book, Mind Change, Ms Greenfield argues that children who frequently used social media or tablets became likelier victims of depression, low self-esteem and increased narcissism. Other studies couldn’t agree more.
Many studies in the past few years have backed up Ms Greenfield’s opinion.
In 2014, psychologists from the University of Harvard and Virginia discovered a surprising behaviour among students. Students favoured a weak electrical shock rather than choose to ponder on their own in a distraction-free environment for 10 minutes.
Ms Greenfield claims that the study demonstrates how people can’t bear without “constant stimulation from their environment every single moment”. So much so that people can’t even be left alone to dwell on their thoughts.
Instead of constantly distracting children with screen time, Greenfield recommends parents should expose their kids to tech-free activities.
For example, she advises parents to encourage gardening, sports and reading to replace screen time and spark their imaginations.
Tanya Goodin, an expert on the subject of freeing screen time, wholeheartedly agrees with Ms Greenfield’s views. She says that children who use their digital devices less frequently benefit much more than their digital counterparts.
Another study from UCLA proves her point. The study discovered that children who were stripped of their technological gadgets for a week improved their ability to understand non-verbal cues, unlike their digital peers.
“When you think about what an important skill reading body language is for life, work, school and relationships, then alarm bells do start to ring on some of the long-term implications of screen over-use,” Tanya explains.
Parenting Tips for a Tech Detox
There are two ways to use your authority as a parent to teach your children for the better. Yes, do make rules to restrict how long they can use their smart toys, but also don’t forget that kids will copy whatever, you’re doing, too.
Develop Good Habits
- Lead by example. Show them what social etiquette is. If you are around your children, put aside your devices and increase the amount of face-to-face interactions. Interacting with an adult lets a child hone their conversation skills, social etiquette and pick up on facial and non-verbal cues.
- Allow Them to be Bored Without IT. Implement “rest times” which consists of non-IT entertainment, such as building Lego models or playing board games with siblings.
Limiting Screen Time