Internet, social media and gaming
Smart phones, tablet devices and gaming consoles are part of a child’s day-to-day life. Many of these devices are also part of the adults’ life in a way they have never been before.
Children’s smart phones give them access to the Internet, social media applications, messaging services and the newest games. This is why setting limits for gaming and phone use can be challenging. The key issue is not how much time the child spends on these devices. What they are doing with is more important.
Ask your child what they are playing and what kind of social media services they and their friend use. Please also keep in mind the age limits of social media services (more information in Finnish: yle.fi). The most common minimum age recommendation or limit for these services is 13 years. There is more information available on the age limits of games, movies and TV shows at ikarajat.fi (in Finnish).
Game educator's handbook, EHYT ry
Source: psychiatrist Ben Furman, MuksuoppiAppi
If you feel that your child is spending too much time playing video games or chatting with friends on the net, and your attempts to limit the child’s screen time fail, you may consider using a strategy based on Kids’ Skills.
Assume an understanding stance
It’s difficult for children to reduce screentime, be it playing computer games, chatting with friends on social media. You will have a better chance to influence the child’s behaviour if you assume an understanding stance, and say something along the lines, ”I know it is not easy for you to do things that I would like you to do because the things you can do on your phone (or tablet, computer, videogame) are more exciting for you.”
Focus on what to do instead
It is easier for children to comply with orders to do something else than with orders to stop doing something that they are excited about. Therefore, instead of telling the child to stop using their gadget (e.g. smartphone, tablet, or videogame), or to spend less time on it, speak only about the things you want the child to do instead of spending time on their gadget.
For example, if your child spends too much time playing computer games and you would want them to spend more time on something else (e.g. homework or sleeping), don’t even mention their playing. Focus entirely on speaking to the child about the thing (e.g. or homework or sleeping) you want them to do more of.
Involve the child
Invite the child to participate in figuring out a solution to how they could do the things you would want them to do. You can ask, for example, “What could help you to reserve more time on your homework?” or “What could make it easier for you to make sure you get eight hours of sleep per day?”
Apply the steps of Kids’ Skills
When the question is not how to stop the child from doing the not-good thing, but how to get the child to do some better thing, it becomes possible to motivate the child using Kids’ Skills.
For example, you can discuss the benefits of learning to put aside more time for the better thing, you can ask the child to give a name to the skill, to pick a power creature, to recruit supporters, etc. It is also important to make an agreement with the child about how others can help them to remember to do it, how others can praise them when they do it, and how others can remind them in an agreeable manner if the child sometimes forgets to do it.
If you struggle with reducing your child’s screentime, you can try to approach the problem differently, not by trying to limit the child’s screentime, but by focusing on getting the child to reserve more time for doing the good things you would want the child to do. In other words, adhere to the principle that it is easier for children to change their behaviour when the focus is on doing more of what is considered desirable than on doing less of what is considered undesirable.