By Dr. Jing Shi, PhD, MSc (OT), BHsc (hons)
Families have a critical role in educating and demonstrating to their children how to use technology in a safe way. It is important to note that the types of support required by children may differ based on their age. For instance, a 7-year-old might require more parental guidance and intervention compared to a 15-year-old. The following are some Dos and Don’ts when it comes to helping your child manage their screen time.
- Be aware of how you use technology and screens as your child is learning from your behaviours.
- Talk about Internet safety, social media harms, and possible risks related to screen time overuse.
- Encourage self-reflection in your child and discussion of negative consequences/unwanted effects.
- Try to find the underlying reasons your child wants to engage in over use of screens. They may be bored, avoiding a social situation, stressed about school, etc. Then, help them address those problems directly and help them acknowledge that their screen time use may be related to this other problem.
- Spend time learning about the screen time activities your child enjoys. They are more likely to cooperate with you if you understand them and speak to them in a non-judgmental and open-minded way.
- If your child is very young, have them use screens in a common area in the home where you and others can help monitor them.
- Help your child set priorities. For example, your child can finish homework first; then, spending time texting or playing video games could be their reward.
- If you notice any signs your child may be experiencing problems with technology use, talk with your child about your concerns and seek help from a professional.
- Don’t unexpectedly shut down or disconnect your child’s device while they are using it as this may cause conflict. Find another time to discuss their screen time habits.
- Don’t limit screen time arbitrarily based on a set amount of time per day. Allow for flexibility in use so that your child can fully enjoy some activities that are permitted. One way to limit screen time may be to set a total number of hours per week which allows for more flexibility. Or consider setting limits by activity such as they must turn off the screen after 1 round of a game or after 1 episode of a show. Hard limits like no screens in bed or at meal times are reasonable.
- Don’t criticize or shame your child for their behaviour. This may cause them tobecome defensive and less willing to cooperate with you. Instead, focus on benefits and positive feelings associated with other activities that your child can engage in.
- Don’t force your child to participate in an activity they do not enjoy. An activity that replaces screen time should also be enjoyable for your child—find out what they like!
Many of these tips include open and frequent communication with your child. The process takes time and you will experience setbacks, good days and bad days. Try to be patient and keep up communication coming from a place of compassion rather than an authoritative and irritated manner.
About Dr Jing Shi:
Dr. Jing Shi is an Assistant Professor at the Singapore Institute of Technology, Health and Social Science Cluster. Dr. Shi also currently serves as an associate editor for the Journal of Gambling Issues, review editor for Frontiers in Occupational Therapy, and advisor for Gambling and Gaming Addiction Gateway. Dr. Shi has been invited to speak at international panels and contributed to several highly cited international publications on video gaming and behavioural addictions. She has experience working as an occupational therapist in private health care and insurance sectors in Canada. Her primary research focuses on video gaming, problem gambling, and mental health. Dr. Shi’s educational background consists of a BHSc (Hons) in Health Sciences with a minor in Psychology from Western University, an MSc in Occupational Therapy from McMaster University and a PhD obtained from the University of Toronto at the Rehabilitation Sciences Institute. Her postdoctoral fellowship was completed at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, the largest research institute for addictions and mental health in Canada.
International Conference on Behavioral Addictions 2015-2022 conference presentations
Shi, J. Renwick, R., Turner, N., & Kirsh, B. (2019b). Understanding the lives of problem gamers: The meaning, purpose, and influences of video gaming. Computers in Human Behavior, 97, 291-303. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2019.03.023
Shi, J., van der Maas, Yu, L, Jiang, Q., Agasee, S. & Turner, N. E. (2022a). Current prevention strategies and future directions for problem Internet use. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 48. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cobeha.2022.101231