I remember vividly getting my Atari game station for Christmas as a child. It was a magical device, I was enchanted by the ability to use a joystick and be able to control two white blobs on the screen (the tennis game), remember it?. Compared to today’s offerings, it was very basic but it was still a source of great enjoyment and I would often spend time challenging my younger sister to a game of Pac Man and the like.
Today, technology is everywhere and while I admire parents who decide to ‘opt out’, for many of us, at certain times, the Tablet or Smartphone creates a welcome distraction for children. The problem is, keeping a rein on screen time in today’s busy world. Here are some tips on how to make sure the screen / life balance remains intact:
1) Time it – Most of us are very busy juggling life / work / family and often the day to day is a whirlwind. Rather than handing a child the Tablet while you finish off that report that was due in yesterday (and running the risk of an accidental two-hour stint on Minecraft), why not set the amount of time they can play on it, say half an hour. They know when time is up and that they need to do something else. I’ve found it’s a good way of teaching the time too.
2) Don’t offer – It’s easy to get into a routine of immediately handing a device over in certain situations. If they don’t ask for it, make the most of it. Also, if you’re planning a meal out, try taking some pens and paper, it’s amazing how many children still enjoy to draw, given the option.
3) Get active – Children need to run around, burn off energy, build muscle and strengthen bones. Most children will gladly exchange a stint on the iPad with a kick around in the park or a game of ‘tig’. For any reluctant candidates, there are some great apps out there which create fitness programmes, so use the device to help children make up their own workout!
4) Get creative – Like with the fitness app, there are lots of ways that the tablet can inspire non-technological activity. For instance, getting children to make up a play then record it, or challenging them to find wildlife to photograph.
Keeping children stimulated in ways other than technology related is sometimes tough. A trip to Dairyland is a brilliant way of getting kids active while they learn. For us, it’s a rare full day when there’s not a mention of Subway Surfer or Minecraft…… Bliss!