Phones and Technology

Phones and Technology

Building Healthy Digital Habits for Children’s Wellbeing: A Guide for Parents– by Dr Jenny Draisey, Child and Adolescent Clinical Psychologist

There is a great deal of attention in the media right now about children’s screen use, and rightly so! We all know that the excessive use of screens and technology has a significant negative impact on a range of factors for children and young people. This includes affecting young people’s mental and physical health, social skills and ability to make and maintain peer relationships, sleep patterns and academic achievement.  If, like me, this all results in major terror and dread regarding how this will affect your own children, or if you are now battling with a great deal of guilt and shame about your own approach to managing your children’s screen time going forward, then you are definitely NOT alone! We also can’t ignore that technology and screens are part of our children’s future and can also be extremely helpful in so many ways. So where does that leave us – initially I felt more confused than ever about what to do! But rather than sit with the doom and gloom and feel deflated, maybe this is our chance to take this as a valid warning for the future of our children, giving us the motivation to work together and take whatever small steps are necessary to help bring about the change that our young people so desperately need right now.

Here are some simple tips that might help you to manage your children’s screentime and their ongoing relationship with technology:

Practical Tips to Manage Children’s Screentime:

  1. Communication and Setting Healthy Screentime Boundaries: Try to discuss your family’s technology and screen use regularly, all together. This can involve sharing your concerns about the impact of screen use with each other and can help you to work together as a family to decide on what is appropriate and fair for everyone involved, supporting you in setting healthy family rules. Regularly check in on and monitor what you have decided as a family and explore all together how it is going; listening to everyone’s opinions. Bringing children into the conversation will help them to feel more in control and will also help them to understand the rules as opposed to just having to blindly follow them without any discussion or meaning.
  2. A United Front: Collaboration with Other Parents: There is such a movement for change at the moment that this is a perfect time to start to work together with other parents in your community. Talk to your friends and your children’s friends parents about how to set boundaries and screen limits that match each other. Obviously you may not always completely agree, but following close enough patterns and knowing you have had these conversations can help you to avoid the dreaded ‘but everyone else is allowed to’ moaning!
  3. Early Boundaries: Establishing Healthy Screentime Habits from the Start: Start setting healthy boundaries as early as possible with children and screen time – young people really do thrive on routine and once a routine is set well and remains consistent (and discussed regularly), it becomes much harder to challenge and act against.
  4. Delay, Delay, Delay! It is recommended to delay giving a child their own device for as long as you possibly can. Or at least think about what kind of tech is appropriate for different age groups.
  5. The Positive Side of Screens: Making Technology Work for Your Family: Think about the pros and cons of different types of technology and how to set boundaries around this accordingly – watching a movie together or playing an interactive computer game alongside a parent or sibling while chatting and talking about what is happening in the game is likely to be far more beneficial than a child scrolling through social media accounts for hours on end alone in their bedroom.
  6. Alternative Activities: Fun Ways to Reduce Screentime: Offer alternative options when screen use is not happening. Perhaps you could introduce a family game night, or get out the toys or crafts that have been sat in the back of the cupboard for months on end. Encourage your young people to develop interests that are not always centred around phones and technology. I’m not saying this will be easy, but they will benefit from this so much when they are older and able to find joy and pleasure in activities that don’t involve screens.
  7. Shared Screen Experiences: Connecting with Your Kids Online: A big one for me is making sure that we spend time with our children online and find out what they are interested in, what draws them in and how do they feel after using different types of technology? Shared experiences are much more valuable than solo activities so try to avoid using screens as childcare where possible.
  8. Lead by Example: Modelling Healthy Screentime as Parents: And finally, look at your own screen time use – how are you modelling healthy screen and technology use? How can we expect our children to put their phones down if we are glued to ours 24/7!

By implementing these tips, you can help your children develop a healthier relationship with screens and technology. Start with small changes and gradually build on them to create a balanced and engaging environment for your family. If you have any questions or need further support, feel free to leave a comment below or reach out to me directly. Let’s work together to ensure our children thrive in this digital age!

Written by Dr Jenny Draisey, Child and Adolescent Clinical Psychologist.

If you are struggling to find a way to help your child to manage their screen time, or if you have noticed that your child or young person is struggling with anxiety as a result of social media or any other of life’s present-day pressures, feel free to contact Dr Jenny Draisey about her support service for parents. This service can provide a one-off 1.5 hour parent support session, offering ad hoc advice and support for any mental health or well-being related difficulties that your child or adolescent, your family, or you as a parent, may be facing at the moment.  You can email her on jen@drjen-psychology.com for more information.

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