Dr Bex Lewis encourages parents and carers to be just that!
When talking about games and apps for children, parents need to remember their role as parents, including setting boundaries, and taking time to talk and play with their children. As my parents did with my book reading (I had to put the book down before sitting at the dinner table), so we can apply the same rules to digital technology. Talking to other parents also helps ensure that peer pressure is reduced. I have friends who have a mug full of lollipop sticks with different activities on them, including both tidying their room and an hour of game time!
Kelvin Whittaker, interviewed recently on Premier Breakfast, is an IT consultant who also parents a 5-year-old and a 1-year-old. An avid gamer himself, he and his wife enjoy spending time together with his eldest online, helping him understand the content he’s consuming.
At present, because he’s been immersed in the digital world from birth, the child is good at self-regulation, sometimes spending a couple of hours online and at other times a few minutes, while the youngest takes the phone and pretends to have conversations. The family are also very active and energetic outside, and at times ‘no’ is required, especially at particular family times, or just before bed. The child can get upset, but this is no different to saying no to anything else. As Supernanny used to say, children need a consistent message in any behavioural training!
Leanne and Darren Bell are parents to Livi (17), Sam (10) and Riley (7). Leanne indicates that it can be a struggle to manage family screen time as, if left to their own devices, the children would be on it all the time. The children seem happy to do something else if it is suggested, but don’t seem so good at entertaining themselves away from the screen.
Livi loves social media, and is more relationship focused, while the boys are more into gaming on the Xbox and iPad.
With all these children, their parents have recognised their individual interests, and have ensured that their first forays online are well supervised. This includes ensuring that games are played in the family rooms in the home, and that they have access to all social media passwords until their children reach the age of at least 16.
What boundaries will help your family have more positive digital lives together?
Dr Bex Lewis is Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing at Manchester Metropolitan University and Director of Social Media Consultancy Digital Fingerprint. She is the author of Raising Children in a Digital Age: Enjoying the Best, Avoiding the Worst, published by Lion Hudson in 2014.